The Offing; Nat. Brut; The Breakbeat Poets Anthology; Lana Turner Journal; The James Franco Review’s emergency issue on Art and Engagement; The Poetry Foundation’s forum on poetry and culture; Muzzle Magazine; Spook Mag; Nepantla. The literary platforms prioritizing diverse voices have blossomed in the time since Apogee was founded, in 2011. Platforms whose editors and contributors are conscientious and conscious, whose efforts produce a counter narrative to mainstream publishing.
“The era of Conceptual Poetry’s ahistorical nihilism is over and we have entered a new era, the poetry of social engagement,” wrote Apogee Advisory Board member Cathy Park Hong in an essay for The New Republic, responding to a reverent profile of conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith. Her essay reminds us that true innovation has been sparked not by writers who dismiss the role of identity in their work, but by the activist-minded writers and publications who dare to engage identity and social justice through art.
I wanted to start this letter with the good work that’s being done, the work that should move us and inspire us. But I also must acknowledge the events in the literary community in the past year that have provoked us––events that reveal what Apogee co-founder Melody Nixon, during her opening remarks at our 2015 benefit, called the “bigotry, white and male supremacy, and ignorance [that] still plague the landscape we work in.” The aforementioned Kenneth Goldsmith’s “uncreative” editing of Michael Brown’s autopsy report, which Apogee poetry editor Joey De Jesus identified as “an appropriation of black death.” Michael Derrick Hudson’s use of the pen name “Yi-Fen Chou,” which, as Apogee poetry reader Muriel Leung put it, “stripped an identity of a history.”
These moments and the conversations that surround them signal that our work is urgently necessary. Issue 06 of Apogee is situated within that urgency, with its many prisms of insight, destabilizing and distorting the status quo.
The essays here take us through histories and across borders. We find ourselves on the eve of a total solar eclipse in Zimbabwe in Chido Muchemwa’s “The Rotting of the Sun,” contemplating the lasting effects of British colonial power on Zimbabwean identity. We journey to Tobago with Victoria Brown to negotiate the ambivalence of a Caribbean-American visiting home, torn between disdain for American race politics and Tobagonian sexual politics. The fiction in this issue, likewise, presents tensions between identities and contexts. In Kiik Aragi Kawaguchi’s poetic and atmospheric short story, “a wig,” we are fenced in with a couple in a Japanese internment camp.
The poetry represents tensions and transmutations within the self—formally, as in Walter Ancarrow’s “Fermented Fruit Poem,” a concrete poem that riffs on the repetition of a single line while simultaneously playing with the representation of sexuality; thematically, such as in Michelle Lin’s “Portrait of the Mother as Mystique from X-Men;” and linguistically, as in Soyini Forde’s “Soon mus come,” written in hybrid diction, and Jennifer Tamayo’s “Guaravita, La Dorada,” whose voice is an android “trying to be closer to nature.”
These writers show the richness of non-dominant literary voices. Their work is powerful, not only because it often engages in socio-cultural critique, but also because it reflects lived experiences and complex relationships to identity. Individually, through their work, these writers and artists show us what it means to be caged in; and what it means to be pushed out. They remind us of the invention possible beyond the mainstream. As a whole, they give us a sense of possibility that the conversation does not have to start with the center. It can start in the margins.
ALEXANDRA WATSON, Executive Editor
on behalf of the Apogee staff