“Black excellence to me is strength, beauty, and creativity…is staring that fear in the face and telling it you are Black, and that IS excellence.” –Tayvhon Pierce
You may not be familiar with the name Tayvhon Pierce quite yet, but you will be. Pierce is a writer, photographer, and social justice advocate dedicated to highlighting the human experience, providing an understanding of people and their “strength, beauty, [and] perseverance.” He recently published a poetry collection titled Why Me? A Balladry, in which he takes a deep dive into himself, reflecting and gifting himself to readers.
The moment you set eyes on the cover, Pierce’s willingness to share himself is quite literally at the forefront. The photo is a directed self-portrait that’s a close-up of Pierce clutching an item of clothing. Using the photo as the cover already indicates what readers can expect: a self-portrait of Pierce created through poetry.
Through his words, Pierce offers a raw and unflinching portrait of himself, writing with depth and honesty. He examines his identity as it relates to his religion, his sexual identity, and his Blackness. But Pierce doesn’t only write about his experience – he shares the unique, universal experience of Black people, one that’s blunt but also nuanced. He also creates enough relatability for non-Black readers to feel seen in some way, while also providing understanding.
While each poem shines, there are a couple that stand out to me. One is “I can finally breathe.” Pierce writes about grappling with his identity and eventually accepting himself as “this Black bi boy,” finding space to finally breathe. Another one that hits hard is “What do you see?” In the poem, he calls out stereotypes attached to Black people (Black men, in this instance), writing, “Do you see a thug, a criminal,” and later switching to a changed perspective. Pierce also created a TikTok video in conjunction with the poem, which you can watch here.
Overall, Why Me? is a definite must-read. Whether you’re a poetry reader or not, Pierce finds just the right way to pull you into his writing through vivid and intense imagery. Each poem tells its own distinct and concise story, fitting neatly together to create one cohesive and well-rounded story. The poems hit hard emotionally but are also thoughtfully written and thought-provoking. Everyone can gain something from these poems.