It was a time before the Internet, even before television—not just Netflix, HBO or even cable—before the existence of black and white television with a couple network channels, and the world was at war. I’m reading The Life of Poetry—written by the great Muriel Rukeyser during WWII.
This book, comprised of Rukeyser’s lectures given during the 1940s, remains vibrant and valid today. Her assertion—that “poetry, because it demands full consciousness on the part of the writer, and full response on the part of the witness/reader to the truths of feeling,” could bring people together, spur movement toward peace—couldn’t be more true now.
Rukeyser defined poetry broadly—as action—giving an example from the time she was living in: on the day that occupying Germany forced the Danish Jews to wear the yellow Star of David, every single person in Denmark wore the badge in solidarity. Today, we can raise muffled voices, stand beside—rather than by—and bear witness through words. In a time when the world is shouting over “fake news,” a single line of poetry—a fictional sentence—can hold both the truth and lies in co-existence. Rukeyser believed that poetry could shift consciousness from writer to reader—and out of that exchange came energy, the ability to effect change.
Pablo Neruda famously said, “Poetry is an act of peace.” As writers and readers, we are a committing an act of peace. We are agreeing to see the world through a different lens, hear and speak a different voice, to explore new environments and places, to go off our own beaten path and in the process, to come to a new understanding.
The Adroit Journal’s Issue Twenty-Six brings us the ability to experience new worlds through new eyes. As this issue features the work of the Adroit Prize winners and finalists, you have a window into where today’s best young writers’ creative spirits are living. Theis Anderson’s Adroit Prize-winning “Three Fields to Leave You” will send shivers down your back, even in the late-August heat. Adroit Prize for Prose winner Polina Solovyeva will take you into the mind of a seven-year old girl questioning faith and experiencing death in “Bug Murder.”
Austin Smith’s poem “Wounded Men Seldom Come Home to Die” also captures a family’s love and grief, the return home to the familiar and unknown. This is also the territory that Jericho Brown’s poem “Peaches” covers. Listen to him read this poem and think of summer and home. That’s the transformative power of these writers to both carry you into their homes and into your own.
Or into a neighborhood of “cul de sacs and smooth tan sidewalks” for the family wedding in Nancy Reddy’s poem “Family Portrait with Forsythia and Hunting Rifle” or the corn fields of Iowa with poet Anna Tomlinson’s “Joyride”. Issue Twenty-Six will transport you to an imagined world as Megan Giddings does in her story “Desert Island Diet”, or to imagining old loves returning as in Courtney Sender’s “In Other Lifetimes All I’ve Lost Comes Back to Me”.
These are interior journeys—often filled with questions. In his poem “Failed Attempts at Explanation”, Paul Guest asks, “What aches/like a sick tooth/in your mouth, planet Earth?” And from Logan February’s poem “The Dead Boy is Poured Back into his Body”: “So you realize you are alive, now what?”
Read Issue Twenty-Six of The Adroit Journal. Find the poem, the story, the experience that will take you out of your body and into someone else’s, that propels you into a different time and place, that brings you closer to understanding. Now what? Act on it.
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Since Heidi Seaborn started writing in 2016, her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Nimrod, Mississippi Review, Penn Review, Yemassee Journal, American Journal of Poetry and in her chapbook Finding My Way Home. She’s won or been shortlisted for over a dozen awards including the Rita Dove Poetry Prize. Her award-winning debut book of poetry, Give a Girl Chaos (see what she can do) is forthcoming from Mastodon Publishing/C&R Press. She’s a New York University MFA candidate and a graduate of Stanford University, and serves on The Adroit Journal’s staff as a poetry reader. Visit her online at www.heidiseabornpoet.com.
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