Sundress Publications has made pre-orders available for Matthew E. Henry’s the Colored page. Ten percent of pre-order proceeds will go to benefit the Massachusetts Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity.
This stunning new poetry collection by Matthew E. Henry (MEH), the Colored page, is a visceral meditation on the multi-layered experience of a Black body in educational spaces. Sprawling with metaphors and allusions to both the contemporary and the historic, Henry brings us an intense narrative chronicle of the speaker’s life as student, educator, and finally as a writer. At the center there is a reckoning with the racism written into the pages of America, and Henry leads us from the microaggressions of educational oversight, to the horror of blatant dehumanization. In pieces that directly call out those responsible—educators, institutions, and peers alike—the speaker moves via Henry’s generously vivid poems through open letters, vignettes, and poetic narratives that uncover the realities of an educator’s life’s work in the “United” States today. Here we see the impact of ferocious racism and its brutal cousin, weaponized incompetence. In a world that so often seeks to minimize Black experiences, the Colored page does not inflate, but neither does it look away. Yet, too, there is joy in these pages. Henry invites us to love, but please don’t touch, the beauty of Black hair, of Black lives, and of our Black students. For as much as he shines that telling Black light on the stains of the institutions he has spent his life within, Henry here evidences a life well-lived, a life spent studying, growing, and thriving despite the biased budgeting and the crude mishandling of student dignity. Henry asks us to look at the vile and call it out, but then we are tasked to shift our focus to the glory that is the student who triumphs. Henry invites us, ultimately, to a celebration.
Advance praise for the Colored page:
“In a debut where no one is left unaddressed, Matthew E. Henry poetically investigates issues of the modern world including conversations with Marxists, ‘well actually’ guys, the odd questions from co-workers, and racism of all forms. This is a collection of advocacy where educators are seen and the thoughtless are forced to reflect. In the Colored page, MEH manages to capture all of our collective rage and grievances at a time where the world is ablaze.”
—Chris L. Butler, author of Sacrilegious: Poems & Prose
“There’s a popular scene from the show Lovecraft Country where three Black characters visit what they believe to be a Black-friendly diner only to discover the charred remnants of the old diner beneath the floorboards and the fresh white paint—this is what it’s like to read Matthew E. Henry’s the Colored page. Framed by Langston Hughes’ poem, ‘Theme for English B,’ these poems investigate how America’s education system itself is slavery repainted and renovated, how the whiteness of Boston classrooms necessitates a separate course in Black tolerance, silence, and survival. And although Henry’s speaker does survive, he acknowledges the cyclical nature of racism and violence. Henry writes, ‘I miss being the only Black professor / in a program where I was once the only Black face / on the website for over a decade, wondering if my legacy / will be passed to the lone Brother sitting in my old seat,’ a clear illustration of how America’s painful past is never truly addressed, but painted and bricked over time and time again.
—Taylor Byas, author of Bloodwarm
“Matthew E. Henry takes the reader on an indelible journey in the poetry collection, the Colored page. An honest and painful recollection of the odyssey as a Black child growing up in the not-so-kind north and battling the same demons as an adult amongst a sea of people who only see him when they are looking for him. Playful language meets the grit of reality, and the combination pulls you through each page. While the Colored page references the ‘greats,’ this book deserves a place on that shelf too.”
—Ashley Elizabeth, author of you were supposed to be a friend
“These poems are exquisitely crafted to force our focus where America refuses to gaze. From teachers’ ‘messianic attempts to save,’ to the curriculum’s ‘slim books / stacked like hulled bodies in the back / of my classroom,’ Henry freezes time as both teacher and student. In any one of these poems, he expands and investigates the American classroom more than entire pedagogical studies do—the Colored page should be taught as literature but also in every teacher-education class. I would be a better teacher if I had read this first. Furthermore, Henry’s poems are a master class for teacher-writers on turning daily challenges into art. This book could change your life in more ways than one.”
—Mitchell Nobis, teacher, writer, and host of Wednesday Night Sessions
Matthew E. Henry (MEH) is the author of Teaching While Black (Main Street Rag, 2020) and Dust and Ashes (Californios Press, 2020) and editor-in-chief of The Weight Journal. You can find him at MEHPoeting.com writing about education, race, religion, and burning oppressive systems to the ground.