In honor of our 20th anniversary, we wanted to share our perspectives on crafting this vibrant issue, which features poetry by Bushra Rehman, Purvi Shah, YaliniDream and Ather Zia, along with a photo essay by Sabelo Narasimhan. Together, these pieces highlight the diversity of voices in the diaspora, ranging from Narasimhan’s visual documentation of protests against New York City’s Stop-and-Frisk policy to Rehman’s tongue-in-cheek take on break-ups.
Poems pass through moments, as do our lives. Both poetry and justice necessitate a vision, a series of quiet actions built from contemplation and our own observations. Both poetry & justice necessitate desires, this wanting & wanting more, this knowing & knowing more. This stitching between – a kind of locking of skewed, errant and yet beautiful tiles – is the movement between the world of poetry & this world itself, between the world itself & the world we desire – the world we will one day make.
This was my world, where the city met the pulse of irrepressible wildlife, where my parents and their friends created a Muslim community from scratch. It is this world and the leaving of it I recreate in my writing.
It was a beautiful June day in 2012. Thousands of demonstrators participated in a silent march down Fifth Avenue to protest the New York Police Department’s Stop and Frisk policy. We marched under trees, past the Guggenheim and the Met lined with weekend tourists. We were Quaker activists, Muslim associations, civil rights organizers, labor union members, families from grannies to babies, student groups, queer youth, global coalitions, church leaders, and ethnic, cultural, and racial justice organizations, amongst others. We marched silently, reflecting the growing alliances between these groups, demonstrating the intersectional effects of this destructive policy.
As a people living under an occupation which is camouflaged within a patina of democratic set-up and draconian laws, there is a constant erasure of our bodies, memories and identities. We are inflicted with active forgetting in order to survive. At the border where the direct gaze of prose is constricted with barbed wires of multiple coercions, poetry spurts forth. Poetry makes one a witness, rather than just an archivist. One’s life-blood, all that is political and emotional; lived, remaining, and forgotten coagulates into a poem.