Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Bein Colored

This past weekend, I went to see the movie, “For Colored Girls,” based on the 1975 play for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf written by poet Ntozake Shange. The play is 20-part poem that chronicles the lives of Black women; it was published in book form in 1977.

Here are a few opinions without plot spoilers: On an emotional level, I enjoyed the movie. The audience I saw it with was full of colored girls like me, crying in spots and generally empathizing with what was happening on the screen.

The poetry is divine and was woven seamlessly into the dialogue. However, this may have been a drawback because the poems didn’t stand out quite enough. In some cases, the visuals took away from the aural experience. In yet another instance, two people were reciting different poems at the same time. Conceptually, it was rather interesting but as I was catching phrases from either poem, I was frustrated that I couldn’t concentrate on them individually.

A friend of mine, another colored girl, saw the movie separately and hated it, thinking it was way over the top. I do understand her point: On a scale of one to 10, the drama intensity started at a nine and ended up at around 11 or 12.

The question of Tyler Perry’s skill or lack thereof as a director has been much debated, and reviews of the new movie are mixed at best, as evidenced by these articles at the Salon and USA Today web sites. I think Perry, who also wrote the script for the movie, did a good job modernizing the stories. I wonder, though, what Lee Daniels, male director of “Precious”–or even any woman director–would have done with the material.

Is there such a thing as a black women theatrical film director? Hopefully they’re up and coming.

As for Ntozake Shange herself, she is fine with the way the film turned out, according to an article on theGrio web site. Among other things, she’s happy that her work is getting exposure.

Am I imagining that there is a general renewed interest in poetry? The movie, “Howl,”–which highlights the famous poem, its creator Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and the pivotal obscenity trial–opened only a few months before “For Colored Girls.” The latter, so far, is doing decent box office; Howl, an artsy genre-bender of a film, has not fared as well. Nevertheless, I hope that the appreciation for poetry continues to become more widespread.

By the way, you don’t have to be the “c” word to to see “For Colored Girls.”


Courtesy of Poets.org, here’s the conclusion of a poem I love by Ntozake Shange (this is not from for colored girls…). Her social commentary is deadly serious and sometimes wickedly funny.

this is blk magic
you lookin at
& i’m fixin you up good/ fixin you up good n colored
& you gonna be colored all yr life
& you gonna love it/ bein colored/ all yr life/ colored & love it
love it/ bein colored/

Spell #7 from Upnorth-Outwest Geechee Jibara Quik Magic Trance Manual for
Technologically Stressed Third World People

–Excerpt From “My Father Is a Retired Magician
by Ntozake Shange.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2010


Comments on: "Bein Colored" (9)

  1. I really liked this review. I have never been here before and I am glad I stopped by. A very well written and informative review! I have been thinking about seeing this, now I am on the fence. Either way you have a great web page here Bravo!

    Blessings to you,

  2. I have been hesitant to see this one. I saw the play off-broadway in NYC a hundred years ago and was literally stunned into silence. I own the book.

    I am a fan of Perry’s dramatic work, but I just can not imagine how this would translate to a film. I may see it. But I may wait until I can watch it at home, alone.

    Great review, love.

  3. I’ve missed you, Sweepy. Great review. The only “c” word I know is ugly and kills people. A colored girl is beautiful and adds to peoples lives. ❤ *hugs*

  4. I hadn’t heard of the poem, the book, the film or the author. Shame on me – I’m a ‘w’ girl. Now I want to get a look. Sweepy, how are you doing this? First Gil Scott Heron (bought the whole darn album!) now actual poetry made into an actual film by an actual ‘c’ girl. Looks like you’ve found a way into my roots n dub rock n roll soul and told it some wonderful new stories, Ty 🙂

  5. I found your comment about the drama factor to be very telling. Have we gotten to the point that things have to be ‘hyper” or ‘uber’ dramatic for us to feel them? Have we gotten to the point where we miss the subtle pain are sisters are feeling? Does abuse, pain and disrespect have to be 10+ before we recognize it as such? Just a thought….

  6. Hi Sweepy Jean! Nice blog and I enjoyed the movie review. I was shaking my head in agreement when you mentioned how the poetry was a nice touch but clashed in certain scenes. I recalled a feeling of frustration as I anxiously tried to follow the poetic dialogue between Thandie Newton and Whoopi Goldbergs’ characters. If I might add – this movie came up in conversation during a dinner with friends and my cousin’s girlfriend (who happens to be a Psychologist) voiced her concern with the infamous rape scene. I found it interesting how she expressed how she felt the rape scene [albeit a pivotal scene in the movie] was brutally long. I must say I agree but tried to justify it in my mind. Surely, Perry had a purpose for that scene…right? I thought back on how the camera direction shifted back and forth from rape scene to the clock (indicating the time lapse). The rape all but lasted 3 minutes yet seemed to drag on forever. Perhaps, Perry wanted the audience to experience the victim’s misery and how those few moments seemed never ending to the victim? Or was it simply insensitive to the audience as the Psychologist implied? Either way, the movie is particularly avant-garde and therefore permanently etched into the memory of the black audience just as is Color Purple, Woman of Brewster’s Place, Roots, and the like.

    • Hi, Cheryl! We seem to be on the same wavelength regarding the movie. As I was watching, Kimberly Elise’s reaction to her situation reminded me so much of Brewster Place. And I also noticed the same thing with the clock and the rape scene as you did; it was supposed to be uncomfortable but it was an excellent device to give the audience a small taste of the real humiliation and insult. As for the cuts to the opera, um, er… lol! But yes, the movie is an instant classic.

  7. I will check this movie out, having seen Precious, would like to reflect on both.
    – thanks for the review.

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