The following was originally published as the afterword to the collection Love after Babel and Other Poems by Chandramohan S, published in January 2020 by Daraja Press. The collection won the Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Outstanding Book Award in January of this year. You can order a copy direct from Daraja Press here.
They ask me why do you write poems?
I write poems – the people have the right to…bear arms.
These lines, taken from his one-stanza masterpiece ‘Why Do I Write Poetry?’, encapsulate the very essence of Chandramohan S’ approach to his craft in his third collection, Love after Babel and Other Poems. These poems are unapologetically weapons, fighting against the pre-modern notion of caste in all its insidious 21st century glory.
CN: death, violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, colonialism, racism, ethnic cleansing
Norwich, like many cities and towns across Britain, has seen a number of Palestinian solidarity protests in recent weeks. These protests came in the wake of the latest series of aerial bombardments between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of 256 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, according to UN figures. The spark for this recent escalation of violence occurred when an Israeli court greenlit eviction proceedings of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, and subsequent peaceful protests were brutally repressed, culminating in attacks by Israeli police on the holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, which elicited international condemnation.
A misleading image presents itself within certain areas of Black power discourse. It is the gilded image of the Black royal or the ancient African empire, manifesting within popular culture as a vision to aspire to. The recent release of Beyoncé’s Black Is King brings the subject back to the forefront of the public domain, presenting a glorification of Black royalty in the matrix of the Black liberation struggle.
This idolisation does not fit a revolutionary paradigm, but, rather, strives for “advancement” in line with a white supremacist world. It honours the western concept of civilisation as a system that oppresses others: there would be no monarchy without subjugation, no “great” empire without violence and theft.
Content warning: mentions transphobia
As the Green Party lets its members elect its third member of the House of Lords, one candidate’s name has jumped to my attention more than the rest: Rupert Read. For those who don’t know, Read is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, a former Green Party Councillor in Norwich and, according to his website, a ‘climate and environmental campaigner’. Whilst this can be seen as an impressive list of roles and beliefs, these aren’t the reason that Read’s name caught my eye.
Content warning: brief references to sexual assault
The Barging Buddhi and Other Poems takes us on a journey from human expectations that are created within a set culture, to more cosmic climbs, from which we are brought back to earth with the fragility of life, to then be connected to a wider sense of nature. Sunita Thind’s poetry is rich, sensual and visual. Although her numerous questions throughout the collection hint at self-doubt and uncertainty, she shows a strong sense of voice that is not easily contained, like the ‘pyrotechnical parrots’ she describes, how humans ‘clip their wings to capture the fury of their rainbow constellations / humans devouring them like black holes / sequestered in monster iron cages.’ The collection is strongest when assertive, using imperatives: ‘delete the tears’, ‘stain me’, maroon me.’
by Lotty Clare
Towering out of the ocean at 13,796ft, Maunakea is the tallest point in Hawai’i, and one of the most culturally and spiritually important sites in the archipelago. It is considered to be the piko (umbilical cord) of Hawai’i. It is also seen as kūpuna (ancestors/elders), and is the home of deities as well as the site of various shrines and burial grounds. Furthermore, the mountain is also an important habitat for several endemic species of animals. If you were to have driven down the road to the summit on the 15th July, you would have been stopped by a line of kūpuna blocking the road with their bodies. They were protecting this sacred site from the construction of a 30 meter telescope (TMT) which was given the OK by Hawai’i governor David Ige. Since then, this group has gained traction, and crowds have grown from a few hundred, to thousands. If you were to go there today, you would find a large camp on the site, with tents, cultural ceremonies taking place, traditional food being prepared, and a community run day care and school.
by Tamar Moshkovitz
This Wednesday, 19th June, the poet Joy Harjo was named the US’s 23rd Poet Laureate. She is the first Native American to be appointed to the role, and we should all be excited to hear her perspective – a voice previously unheard, or ignored by the tradition of American poetry and America’s colonial national narrative.
by Liv Barnett
Barbershop Chronicles is a ride which buzzes with energy from the first shaves to the final fades. It is written by Inua Ellams, UK-based poet, playwright and performer, and is an exhilarating play that identifies various aspects of black men’s experience through snippets of stories and interactions in barbershops that Ellams overheard as he travelled throughout Africa. Like hairdressers or taxi rides, barbershops can be intimate spaces for banter, storytelling and confession. With generosity and patience, this play does a good job of allowing audience members to step momentarily into the world of men’s chats. We become part of the warmth and banter between sensitive characters and appreciate the feelings and analyses that come with post-colonial politics, experiences of cultural change, complex family dynamics and making a living amongst love and friendship.
by Josh Doble
The unassuming small parish village of Southrepps, twenty-two miles north of Norwich, is the surprising location for a memorial to the former pariah state of Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe. This is not necessarily a well-known site – it was stumbled across during a summer cycle – yet it represents an important space to demonstrate the wider political environment in rural Norfolk, and the area’s connections to right-wing pressure groups further afield. The memorial itself is opposite Southrepps Hall and is made up of an avenue of Tilia Cordata – small-leaf lime trees – and three flag poles hosting the Union Jack, the Rhodesian flag and the original Southern Rhodesian flag. The Sladden family are the ‘Lords’ and ‘Ladies’ of Southrepps Hall and have a close history with Rhodesia, historically being settlers themselves. It would appear that the Sladden family built the memorial to commemorate their connections to the former country and to celebrate its memory.
by Stu Lucy
Last time we met I penned a reflective piece that acknowledged not only my privilege but also the de facto situation of millions of people across the planet, not least in Africa, forced to make the difficult decision to leave all they know behind, hoping for a better life in alien and often hostile lands many thousand of miles away. I’d like now to rewind to the very beginning of that process to try and suggest why it is so many end up making such a choice.Continue Reading