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In Their Own Words

Poets and translators on their work.

Deborah Paredez on “A Show of Hands”

How to de-familiarize ourselves, how to make strange, the familiar language and images that have informed us about and inured us to the effects of war and violence? How might a focus on Latinx experiences of war and violence, and the vexed relationship Latinx communities have with "documentation," help us interrogate the visual and rhetorical terms and tropes of documenting disaster? I take up these questions in my book, Year of the Dog, a Latina feminist chronicle of the Vietnam War era.

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Aricka Foreman on “A Longed-For, Which I Enter Gratefully”

“A Longed-For, Which I Enter Gratefully” arrived in tandem while visiting NYC, a trip familiar with beloveds and the chance to read poems, talk shit, laugh, and be quiet. It receives its title from a phrase in Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider essay “Uses of the Erotic, The Erotic As Power.”

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Jessica Q. Stark on “Explanatory note”

“Explanatory note” was one of the last additions to Savage Pageant, a hybrid poetry book that centers (in part) on a defunct zoo called Jungleland. In the book, I juxtapose poems about my first pregnancy and my own terror of bringing a child into this world with the chronology of California landownership, Hollywood gossip and concealed information, a zoo and its zookeepers, and a history of ecological violence nearby

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Francisco Aragón on “1985”

The poem is about the Reagan Administration’s Contra war against Nicaragua—the terror inflicted on communities there in the 1980s, including the woman portrayed here, her hair “[l]ong and black, the streaks of gray, aflutter in the light / wind as she prepares to tell // her story…” The earliest version of this piece, which I titled “Witness,” I presented in my very first creative writing workshop—led by Ishmael Reed. In its first iteration, the Spanish-language passage was, literally, a footnote.

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Destiny O. Birdsong on “Pickle Goddess”

I love watching black women on camera because I am a black woman who likes to see herself. While watching, I’m distracted from popular culture’s blaring reminder that my thighs are too fat, my nose too large, and that the blackness of my body looks much better on bodies that are, in fact, not black.

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Leah Naomi Green on “Field Guide to the Chaparral”

“Field Guide to the Chaparral” began as a bow—as an attempt to look, without flinching, at the love contained in hurt, and the hurt contained in love—the startle and awe of love and hurt comprising one other.

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Jameson Fitzpatrick on “How to Feel Good”

I remember little about this poem’s composition, which is unusual for me. I was probably depressed when I wrote it, hence my preoccupation with its titular project. An email search turns up a draft I sent to my friend Diana (Hamilton, brilliant poet) on May 31, 2016. Her belief in the poem facilitated my own, as did her astute feedback (it was Diana who suggested that poetry was for the “hopeless.”)

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Deborah Paredez on “A Show of Hands”

How to de-familiarize ourselves, how to make strange, the familiar language and images that have informed us about and inured us to the effects of war and violence? How might a focus on Latinx experiences of war and violence, and the vexed relationship Latinx communities have with "documentation," help us interrogate the visual and rhetorical terms and tropes of documenting disaster? I take up these questions in my book, Year of the Dog, a Latina feminist chronicle of the Vietnam War era.

Continue Reading