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African Writer Magazine Special Issue #1: Catharsis


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-NADIA ALEXIS, Poetry Editor

In many ways, this year has been one of the most difficult of our collective lifetimes. To experience the COVID-19 pandemic while navigating the ills of capitalist, white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, imperialist terrains has often felt insurmountable. With each passing day, I turned to whatever I could to get through it. Aside from things like FaceTimes with loved ones, watching comedic social media skits, eating as best I could, and dancing, I often found myself turning to poetry. I read poetry nearly every day, whether that be a single poem or much less often slow-reading an entire collection. I needed to release fear and pain, to see the world again, to turn inward, to connect with others, to lean into awe or hope or the ordinary or a different type of darkness. This was familiar. This felt like home.

Catharsis is a releasing, a purging, a cleansing. In sitting with the poems in this issue, I sought to feature poets who engaged with this issue’s theme with fresh and urgent perspectives. And in thinking of which way forward as we move into 2021, some of these poets offered nuggets of hope and that also felt necessary. Catharsis can be a painful process and reckoning but it also opens doors within and outside of ourselves. It calls on us to make room. It embraces longing and visioning. It calls on us to see things, people, and places anew. The poets in this issue ask us to reflect on home, lineage, inheritance, queer identity, first-generation experiences, self-love, gifts in the natural world, self-preservation, the sacredness of eulogy, the necessity and inevitability of letting go, the sweetness in dreaming, and much more. Dear reader, be moved and be changed.

-TJ BENSON, Fiction & Nonfiction Editor

In this Special Issue, we invited contributors to share their interpretation of catharsis as release, especially considering the kind of year Black people experienced worldwide. Many readers will find Tapala’s stunning meditation on grief (and learning to articulate its unexpected relationships with different aspects of our lives) relatable in ‘Êykhôh’, as much as Ire’s meditation on space including physical, psychological and digital, when the world was in total lockdown in ‘In situ’.

Pieces like Mwiya’s ‘Nokokure’ and Otroyin’s ‘Prison Chicken Stew’ may not reflect the chaos that was 2020, but they speak to what it feels like to have a loved one far away from reach. Our issue also brings some attempt at closure and rediscovery of wonder; Jazmyn offers an ode to those we lost in ‘This is How You Bury Your Ancestors’ and in Cruz’s ‘Rainbows + Butterflies,’ a young girl falls in love for the first time.

African Writer Magazine
African Writer Magazine
African Writer Magazine. Since 2004.


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