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Poem of the week: Morgan Harper Nichols’ ‘Let July be July’

Morgan Harper Nichols’ 2019 poem ‘Let July be July’ successfully creates a bubble of serenity and security with words of encouragement from its first line, “Even here, you are growing” – a message that is most needed in uncertain times such as these. With Boris Johnson announcing dates leading to the return of a pre-coronavirus society, there has been a rising pressure to present oneself as new and improved, causing stress and anxiety amongst many individuals as they prepare for the long-awaited June 21st.

Written a year before the world entered a Black Mirror-type reality, Nichols provides advice that reminds the reader to appreciate and take each moment as it comes. It is easy as a student to become engulfed in our academic world of deadlines and constantly think about our future, so that we do not acknowledge our own personal growth. Thus, Nichols’ reminder that we are growing, “in grace/courage/strength”, makes one feel seen and that we are being rewarded for our silent work. 

The life of a student in this day and age is full of uncertainty around academics and careers. However, the unknown has been magnified due to this pandemic as it has disrupted the traditional events all students experienced before COVID-19 hit, such as graduation ceremonies and the high number of internships previously available. In addition to this, students of colour are constantly striving to climb the career ladder at a steeper angle than their white peers. At the beginning of the fourth stanza Nichols acknowledges these issues and struggles that all individuals might be going through with the line, “It has not been easy for you.” These seven simple words show all those who feel as though their hard work is going unnoticed, and that their unchangeable setbacks in life are almost being accepted by society, they are finally appreciated by an outside voice. 

Furthermore, this past year has required great strength to keep the door to hope constantly open, because we feel responsible to always uplift and take care of those closest to us, ensuring their stable mental health state. Unfortunately, by doing this many of us forget to reward ourselves and so Nichols does this for us through her calming, wise words at the end of the fourth stanza, reminding us of our own individuality and how much we have grown and will continue to grow. 

In my opinion, the final stanza is the most impactful. With its first words, “Let July be July/Let August be August”, surrounding the reader with such tranquility as the poet’s respectful language, it reminds us to take each moment as it comes without rushing to conclusions about what could possibly happen in the future. Often in life we can get so infatuated with how we need to keep track of the events in our lives and fix any errors that it then leads to a cycle of stress – which in turn prevents us from truly appreciating the small events that often get overlooked in our everyday lives. 

Overall, Nichols creates a sematic field of peacefulness and understanding regarding feelings of stress and anxiety. This poem acts as a reminder of our personal growth, as both individuals and a community, and acknowledges achievements that can sometimes go unnoticed.

Let July be July by Morgan Harper Nichols

Even here, you are growing.
When August is approaching
and you feel a little restless
thinking about how
this month might end
and how
this year might end
and how you are supposed to
start again,
you are growing,
you are growing,
in grace
courage
strength.

And it is okay
if it does not feel like it.
It is okay if there are moments
where you cannot see
the way you have grown,
because far beneath the surface
the seeds have still been sown.
The ground beneath your feet
is still a bed for new beginnings.

So much is changing around you 
but you are changing, too.

You are so much more than the brokenness
that you were certain would define you.

It has not been easy for you.
You have worked so hard
to be the positive one.
You have given your best
in areas of your life
where the effort was not returned. 
And this has made it so hard
for you to keep going,
and there have been days
where you were not sure
if it was even possible.
But after everything,
here you are,
just a little stronger,
holding on a little longer,
and you still found room for hope. 

So take heart
breathe deep
you are still becoming
who you were meant to be.

Let July be July.
Let August be August.
And let yourself

just be
even in
the uncertainty.
You don’t have to fix
everything.
You don’t have solve
everything.
And you can still
find peace
and grow
in the wild
of changing things.

Morgan Harper Nichols’ debut collection How Far You Have Come will be published in April 2021.

Image: Frank McKenna via Unsplash

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