Poet, Performer, Educator
Maria James-Thiaw is an award-winning poet, performer, and playwright. She is the author of three poetry collections and her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including Black Lives Have Always Mattered, Cutthroat Journal of the Arts, and Essential Voices: A Covid19 Anthology. Poems from her play, Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project, won the Art of Protest Award from Penn State University’s Center for American Literary Studies in 2018.
Maria James-Thiaw is the founder of Reclaim Artist Collective, an organization that brings her American Griot Project programming to marginalized communities.
A health care system built on bias and inequity, a system of policing that snatches our sons & daughters from our arms, and a pandemic painting a target on our backs – this is 2020 through the eyes of a black woman with chronic illness.
If you’ve ever been dismissed, ignored, suspected, or accused by a healthcare provider, you will relate to these verses.
In this “Corona-cation”-created collection, Maria James-Thiaw delivers personal poetic
reflections on chronic illness and mortality, race relations, and family history. The
speaker’s experiences form a colored chronicle of “Despair-ities” as fluidly surreal as
Dali’s melting clocks, in which she “folds up her somedays” in response to an immune
system that “unpeels her like fresh fruit,” yet conjures music even from suffering (“My
sister’s cells sickle”). Her pain-pricked body is a voodoo doll. Even a right-wing white
supremacist becomes a left-handed kindred soul whose “nerves burn like crosses on
each vertebra.” Count Each Breath scrapes the poem-bone raw. Its verses burn with
rage, against an uncertain future, an unredeemed past, and a bruised and bruising,
black and blue—and white—America.
— Vernita Hall, author of Where William Walked: Poems About Philadelphia and Its
People of Color