Embrace the literary journey with Safiya Sinclair, celebrated poet and author of the captivating How to Say Babylon. In celebration of her latest work being named our October Read of the Month, Safiya graciously shared a curated list of must-read books that have profoundly influenced her own writing journey. Each recommendation comes with Safiya's personal insight, offering a unique glimpse into the inspirations that shaped her poetic voice. Dive into this collection of literary gems and discover the world through the eyes of one of today's most eloquent wordsmiths.
Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She is the author of the poetry collection Cannibal, winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award in Literature, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Poetry, and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Cannibal was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Notable Books of the Year, was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Seamus Heaney First Book Award in the UK, and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize.
How to Say Babylon By Safiya Sinclair
"Safiya gives us a unique look into a Rastafarian upbringing where the men in the household dictate the family rules. Even in a culture that tries to make women small, How to Say Babylon shows how the power of books and education can expand the opportunities of anyone who wants to escape a cycle of family trauma."
Safiya's Recommended Reads
Check out some of Safiya Sinclair's favorite books and read why he loved them so much!
Song of Solomon
By Toni Morrison
"Perhaps my favourite novel ever written. This book is a masterwork, and a sumptuous feast of language. Pure poetry runs through its veins, with characters that feel as skin close as relatives, and a narrative that keeps you hooked and breath-caught the whole way through. This is the book I read and re-read when I long to be enchanted, humbled, awe-stuck, and inspired by the possibilities of language in the hands of a magician."
One Hundred Years of Solitude
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"One of the first novels I read that made me feel truly seen in its pages; these strange and beautiful people were my people, the lush landscape and the florid efflorescence of this world and this history, with all its magic, was mine. With its vivid dreaming and haunting characters, this book hisses humid and calls to me wildly, in a way that only the Caribbean and its people can. The magic Marquez describes can only exist in the tropics, in our home."
By Sylvia Plath
"The first time I read this collection, it changed my world and my way of understanding what a poem could do and how intensely each line could sing. I devoured this book like scripture and carried it around in my head as a teenager, observing the way each poem balanced lyric precision with the wild potency of imagery. Plath is in full bloom here, confessional and mythic; this is a book populated with the untamable jungle of womanhood, both its disappointments and its fecund delights. The young poet in me was hooked."
By Aracelis Girmay
"This is one of the best collections in contemporary American poetry, and one I return to often, especially in times of grief, to envelop myself in Girmay’s tender and joyful observations. There is so much ecstatic beauty here, so much luminous life and light and music, I always come away from this book transformed by her way of seeing the world. After reading Girmay I fall in love with the world and everyone in it. These poems make me grateful for life and hopeful for whatever comes after. This book is as close as I come to prayer."
By Audre Lorde
"I teach the essays from this vital womanist text in all my classes. Lorde’s brilliant essays explore the indelible power of womanhood, the necessity of desire, and the divine feminine. Most crucially, she also reminds us of poetry’s capacity to birth futures and possibilities we had never imagined before. I always return to this book for inspiration and come away grateful for Lorde’s poetic and critical wisdom. This is her call to arms to cherish poetry and the world it makes for all of us."
More From Safiya Sinclair
By Safiya Sinclair
Colliding with and confronting The Tempest and postcolonial identity, the poems in Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal explore Jamaican childhood and history, race relations in America, womanhood, otherness, and exile. She evokes a home no longer accessible and a body at times uninhabitable, often mirrored by a hybrid Eve/Caliban figure. Blooming with intense lyricism and fertile imagery, these full-blooded poems are elegant, mythic, and intricately woven. Here the female body is a dark landscape; the female body is cannibal. Sinclair shocks and delights her readers with her willingness to disorient and provoke, creating a multitextured collage of beautiful and explosive poems.