I’m always looking for a way to return to myself. Roland Barthes writing in Mourning Diary said:“[I feel] embarrassed and almost guilty because sometimes I feel my mourning is merely a susceptibility to emotions. But all my life haven’t I been just that: moved?”
At a recent poetry reading, I eavesdropped on a woman say to her partner after a poet’s performance: I didn’t understand a single word of what he said, but I know he broke through me.
I found myself, in that instant, thinking of nights I had tried to still my tired body, crouched on the cliff edge of sleep, by putting Tinariwen’s Azawad on repeat. The voice—in all its sorrows and salience—had shawled around my body like skin. And every single sigh, every purr, every word of the song were things I heard and knew intimately though I do not speak a word of Arabic.
This idea of ungraspable meanings, Barthes’ moveabilty was the editorial lighthouse of this project.The crux of art, not in what it tells us, but where it moves us. And it wasn’t exactly to transact mere emotional awareness as it was, really, to nudge us towards ports of knowing.
I told myself, if I would have an ally in the process, it would be this: surrender.
That I let the works be, that I let them go where they will go while I follow seduced by music.
In Five Station for Various, an invocative piece in five movements, Richard Ali disjoints our idea of light and fire, repairs it and then skillfully lays the hidden truth bare.
Kechi Nomu (and that good lady never fails to bring it on) grants us an aperture, in her poem Giving Head into an interior space so starkly lit with authenticity. Lydia Kasese asks us what is the Size of Grief. Through heightened cadence and delicate reconsiderations, Rohan Chhetri, Robert Gibbons, Adeeko Ibukun and Jessica Marion Modi, dilate metaphor so precisely that familiar words suddenly took on the feel of new language. Romeo Oriogun explored sonship/fatherhood (and this writer is very much drawn to that) with utter heart. His poetry brims with incandescence and promise.
And this quick rundoes even start to capture the true sprawl of the 19 compelling poems offered in this issue.
Why does desire split open the body? I trusted Rumbi Makanga’s short story: Maybe This is How I die for the answer and she didn’t fail me. Alongside Leftover by Chizoma Emeka Joshua and Trick Question by Cindy Bosley, we offer you, in this issue, fiction pieces that sculpt, quite easily, a continuum of emotional excursions that are delightful at the sentence level and offer rarefied transport.
In the non-fiction section, Oladele Noah makes a case for the feminist cause. We bring you Book Strokes, a constellation of brilliantly articulated micro reviews on some of the most important books of this season. The lens of TJ Benson and the Strides Adventure Club gave us, once again, the rapture of photography. And in Interrogating A Continent’s Rhythm we spoke with three poets whose voices have burst, like a song of the night, into the continent’s imagination in recent years. Such grace. Such astonishment.
Working on this project gave me a feel of what happens behind the gilded center stage. I find myself lit with new respect for those who curate platforms, (especially those who keep their personal writing going). The drudgery of it. But also the kind graces of emails replied on time; those who keep their words, who come through for you.
My experience was of essential goodwill and it is this goodwill—alongside Yehuda Amichai’swords: “The People lived inside prophecies that came true”—that I bring you, dear reader. Feast.