Poet Jasmine Mans Digs Deep Into a Breakup for 'Cycles'

Poet Jasmine Mans Digs Deep Into a Breakup for 'Cycles'

Poet Jasmine Mans has released "Cycles," a brutal examination of a relationship that alternates between magic and misfire. On this occasion, she and her lover are at their outs and don't seem to be able to come back.

A piano soundtracks a beautiful intro vocal from Mans, who proves that she can sing just as well as she writes — which is saying a lot, especially since she recently published a book with Penguin Random House, Black Girl, Call Home. Mans then starts to recite the stirring "Cycles" poem that's accompanied by an emotional time-lapse of her relationship.

"We didn't happen well, but we happened," is the centerpiece of this tale. Mans covers a troubled relationship that managed to endure through trauma, only to now be over. Mans' resolve is powerful — but that doesn't stop her from wondering about her ex-partner, specifically if she "traded in my memory for the weighted blanket of another woman who has an unapologetic body like the one I have."

Her words twist into your skull, making you feel every syllable. You imagine the scenarios, such as when Mans made her partner fried fish, eggs, and grits, even after catching her cheating.

The song ends with Mans listing her wonders, with her final one being if her partner will start over this cycle with another woman. Around the same time, the visual shows her partner letting someone in the door while Mans, in another environment, looks defeated.

Speaking PAPER, Mans reveals that she wrote the story one year ago "with a broken heart and a sleepless body" in an Airbnb in Los Angeles. "Creatively, I, now more than ever, want to share with the world queer love stories," she says. "How they are grossly similar to everyone else's, and unique in their inability to be found in the greater canon. I want to share with the world how women love each other, how they hold hands, how they bend, and all they lose."

She continues, "I don't want it to be uncommon for you to see Black women holding each other. I don't want it to be uncommon for you to see me, in deep, with another woman. I hope this poem allows me, and people like me, more moments, of 'seen-ness.'"

Mans' recent book, Black Girl, Call Home, was named one of Oprah's Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books, as well as a Must Read by Time. "Cycles" is just a taste of her viral poetry that's led to her opening shows for artists like Mos Def and Janelle Monáe, co-hosting Kennedy Center's Arts Across America series with poet Jason Reynolds, and contributing to the 1619 project.

Photo courtesy of Redens Desrosiers


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Story by Andrew Nguyen / Photography by Diego Villagra Motta / Styling by Angelina Cantú