Alluding to the posthumous album of spoken word by Tupac, Shay Belt’s The Rose That Never Grew From Concrete is a collection which ruminates upon and explores the self. Through her poetry, Belt seeks to find a sense of self and belonging. Consequently, the journey the reader embarks upon is tumultuous as Belt writes about Depression, “and you just can’t seem to sink/ but you’re praying for both”, and rooting for yourself, “I am whole/ I am fearless/ I am powerful”.
There is an honest and raw quality to Belt’s writing. Her prerogative is to speak the truth first and foremost. In ‘Free Verse’ she acknowledges the unscripted style her poetry takes, “I don’t have time for the metaphors/ oxymorons and paradoxes”. I enjoyed this approach to poetry (although I missed a certain poeticism) because when Belt did use imagery to exemplify a feeling or experience, it was stark and moving. Poems like ‘Feelings’, ‘Femininity’ and ‘Infamous’ are incredibly powerful as a result of Belt’s ability to frame her own perspective in a way which makes it universally accessible. She affords her reader the benefit to learn as well as listen.
What struck me the most was the bravery and fragility in this collection; Belt’s poems unravel trials and tribulations faced by the speaker but marries her fears with an unending desire to succeed. Despite a few of the shorter pieces feeling underdeveloped for me, many were incredibly poignant. Much like the one below which beautifully characterises The Rose That Never Grew From Concrete:
“Unlike Tupac’s rose that
grew from concrete
“…still I rise.””