Exceptional Poetry From Around the Web: August 2022
Hello poets and poetry lovers! It’s August already! It’s the last full month of summer. So much change is in the air. Friends are moving, starting new jobs, figuring out life post-graduation, post-program, making space for newness. As I’m moving through my own big & small changes, I’ve been thinking a lot about longing, about the domestic space, language, nostalgia and distance.
With that, the work of these five poets are giving me language to negotiate my feelings around change, and also they’re who deserve your attention and support. Featuring work of Jakky Bankong-Obi in Olumo Review, Hauwa Shaffii Nuhi in Isele Magazine, Jannah Yusuf Al-Jamil in Filter Coffee Zine, Maria S. Picone/수영 in The Hellebore, and Henneh Kyereh Kwaku in Poetry Sango-Ota.
As always, thank you for celebrating living poets!
by Jakky Bankong-Obi in Olumo Review
a small illumination or the idea of it, blooming
lily soft and yet resolute.
so that with each new take
through the cotton clouds of dawn,
a brightening unfolds until a golden after–
noon, day’s brash shining.
I long for many things, and this poem makes me long for a freedom outside of a history. Throughout the poem, which reads as cerebral in nature, the speaker reimagines a new day set free from the hardships of what lingered before. Some of the diction feels like an echo of Carl Phillips. I want to live in this morning; I want all my mornings to be this way. For a “light that clears all doubt, clarity clarified of its own steady focus –ripens”.
by Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu in Isele Magazine
you are holding him across a heart, a life, a sea.
trying to tell him that you love him
but it is sounding a lot like ruin
your favourite pictures of you both exist only
on a plane recognized by you,
and perhaps memory.
I’m forever moved by love poems that mark the loss of a brief love, one that exists in its full scope only in memory. Whether the object of affection remembers or cares not is rarely as important that the mark they left behind and the space it creates across time. Told in second person as a measure to create distance, the speaker moves backward and forward in time to a short-lived moment of bliss colored by the ache of its ending.
Teeth on Bread
By Jannah Yusuf Al-Jamil in Filter Coffee Zine
your whole weight into something in hope
that it will feed you. I say,
Like saqadah jariyah, the charity that lasts beyond death. Like
teaching someone how to do something and
hoping that they will remember it after you die. She tells me, That’s why
knowledge is holy.
Because I am also going through some big changes, I found myself, as usual, mesmerized by the domestic space–its softness, the moments of clumsy intimacy, meditations on life’s biggest questions under the stove light. This poem walks its readers through a scene of making bread from scratch, but as any good poem functions, this poem is not just about what it presents us. Al-Jamil’s poem situates its urgencies within the divine, making the action of baking something holy.
When to Use “영”
By Maria S. Picone in The Hellebore
영 stands for the o and double o’s of an anglicized Picone, Soo.
I weigh all I have gained, all I have lost in this 영 sum game of adding and subtracting.
I sweat with the correct pronunciation of 영 in front of a real native speaker.
I have learned that longing begins in language. That ache for another tongue either lost or only partially formed. At the threshold of transition, something is often left behind to make space in another language, and the poem’s speaker talks to its readers on the other side of disjointedness. Though the English translation is flimsy and does not account nuance, “영” does its best to translate to “zero”, meaning “genesis” or “end”
Ode to Gonasua
by Henneh Kyereh Kwaku in Poetry Sango-Ota
Maame, i have come to listen
to your fireside stories—
of talking mahoganies & talking squirrels,
of dwarfs & water spirits—
i have come to your fireplace to say
i am also telling stories & sometimes
i make the trees talk too.
Grandmother poems are evergreen. In the scene of this poem, the home, there is longing and loss, but there is also reverence for what once was. When a family loses a grandmother, it loses a pillar of knowledge, of traditions, yet knowing this, the speaker comes to carry on the stories that have been put down. It reminds me death isn’t just an end but a continuation.
That’s all for now! I hope that you discovered a new poet or poem to love on. I’ll write to you next month.
Yours In Letters,