The impulse to write is often driven by something that we can’t always explain. When we’re younger and don’t know any better, our words flow, overflow, from a place that seems to have no bottom. When we know better, words seem to not flow as easily. It can feel like we have run out of words. Like we have nothing to say. Like we’ve lost a love. A love lost can feel devastating.
I have felt devastated for a while. Have asked myself if I have lost the love for poetry. Been blocked. Been empty.
Kwame Dawes says there is no such thing as a writer’s block (Q&A: Kwame Dawes. 19 Feb 2012. Poetry Potion) https://www.poetrypotion.com/qa-kwame-dawes/. Dawes says that when you are struggling to write, can’t write, it could be that you have nothing to say. And he advises that you must carry on writing. Even badly. Carry on writing to keep up the practice and discipline of writing and in preparation for having something to say. For when the words flow.
Feeling like you have nothing to say, like you have run out of words, can make you feel broken. Then you beat yourself up or, like me, feel like maybe it’s time for a career change – join the army.
This is when you need to have more compassion for yourself. The act of writing is often about us marking our time and place as a people. Marking our personal place within the collective space. Compassion for ourselves is compassion for the collective. Because often we don’t know where does the writer end and where does the reader begin. Where do the people end and where does the writer begin?
In this edition, poet, Vangile Gantsho writes about how we live in a world that seems to be intent on hurting women. Drawing from a symposium where the topic of discussion was about “living in a hopeless world and creative writing being a source of hope,” Gantsho talks about how black women, the world over, are using social media, using the arts, to talk about how our magic, though tired of hardship and pain, is carrying us through. She picks up love & compassion threads from Linton Kwesi Johnson, Audre Lorde, Koleka Putuma and many other magical beings and draws courage from them as she seeks, and it’s a plea for all really, to not land up in a place of hate.
Langston Hughes once wrote, “poems are like rainbows: they escape you quickly.The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes. Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
2015. pg 55-56” Hughes was writing, specifically, about how he came to write his poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers. About needing to put the poem down on to paper as soon as it arrives. About how fleeting the words can be. Like fleeting words, love can appear to be fleeting and this is why we work so hard to capture them to distill in a few verses the immenseness of the universe.
The twenty-five poets who responded to our call for submissions, grappled in various ways with our theme of love & compassion. In his 2014 TED Talk: Why People Need Poetry, Stephen Burton says, “Poems can help you say, help you show how you’re feeling but they can also introduce you to feelings, ways of being in the world…” And I feel the poems in these pages do that and more. These poems are about loss, pain and about war. They are about political unrest, tough love and letting go. They are also about darkness, hiding, questioning, and sometimes providing answers. More importantly, these poems are as much ours as they are yours.
And I hope you enjoy them.