Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Tara Betts

A weekly featured poem of provocation and witness. You can find more poetry and arts news from Blog This Rock.

Understanding Tina Turner

Quiet girl found a voice mama could not quell
inside Nutbush City Limits. The baby
blasted beyond timid Annie Mae into Tina,
grind of muscle, hip, fierce calves
dominating heels into domesticity.

In the early music video era,
I soaked up her battered denim jacket,
leather mini-skirt, spiked wig and stilettos.
I’d throw my head back like her
rippling antennas of brown hair,
belting to no one in particular,
What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Twenty years later, people joke
about Ike’s fists granting Tina her name,
how she transitioned terror rooted
in spousal rhythm and blues to rock diva,
thunderdome warrior queen
with a mountain mansion overseas.

Hurts twang the womb
then escape into songs—like a man
who never holds you too close, too long,
trying to crush music within.

-Tara Betts

From Arc & Hue (Willow Books 2009). Used by permission.

Tara Betts is the author of Arc and Hue (Aquarius Press/Willow Books, 2009). She teaches at Rutgers University and leads community-based workshops. Her work has been published in Essence, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, Callaloo, Gathering Ground and many others. She is one of the poetry editors for The November 3rd Club, an online journal of political writing.

Betts appeared on the Willow Books Reading panel during Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.