A Note on Moko’s 20th Issue

As milestones go, 20 is rather low-key in the larger scheme of things: it’s nowhere near as momentous as turning 18, you’re not yet 21 so you’re still too young to drink in some places, and you’re not 25 so there’s no silverware involved. (For a 20th anniversary you get china.)

In a world full of long-running, online literary magazines, a 20th issue might not seem like much, either. But as we publish this issue, we do so mindful of the challenges faced by the Caribbean literary and artistic community, challenges that have often rendered efforts at serving the Caribbean space – its many readers, writers, artists and art-lovers – difficult, if not seemingly impossible. The internet, though, has changed things. (As much as it has also eaten away at traditional publishing it has made connections possible.) And we are today aware of how much we have to be grateful for as a part of a vibrant, diverse and engaged art-loving community, as well as individual human beings. Two years into a deadly pandemic, we continue to experience twists and turns. But we’re still here.

And looking back at all of the poets, writers and artists who have been published by Moko over the last eight years, it is hard not to see our pages as something of roll call of Caribbean letters and arts.  Among the names we’ve featured:  Raymond Antrobus, Isabelle Baafi, Jacqueline Bishop, Danielle Boodoo-Fortune, Laurence Breiner, Kwame Dawes, Nadia Huggins, Loretta Collins Klobah, Shara McCallum, Rajiv Mohabir, Jennifer Rahim, Jacob Ross, Lawrence Scott, Desiree Seebaran, Mervyn Taylor and so many more. I encourage readers to spend some time reading our back issues at our archives page here.

Past issues can be read at our Archive.

The current issue features the winners of the 2021 BCLF Short Fiction Story Contest, published in partnership with the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival, as well as a supplement of speculative fiction curated by Fabrice Guerrier, founder of Syllable. While we look to various Caribbean futures, there are reviews of new books by authors such as Shara McCallum and Celeste Mohammed, whose very different books (one is a novel-in-verse, the other a novel-in-stories) manage to collectively address pertinent aspects of Caribbean experience with its imbrications of past and present and its diasporic reach. If we are grateful for life, it is not only because of the pandemic, but, as suggested by Jason Allen-Paisant’s stunning poems which open the issue, it is also because of the power dynamics still faced by black and brown bodies the world over amid the unfolding catastrophe of colonial history.

Ahead of this issue’s publication, I asked Moko‘s founders, Richard Georges and David Knight Jr., to send me a note on what the 20th issue meant to them. It read:

Nine or ten years ago, David and I, having connected online over some Derek Walcott essays, began plotting the idea of what would become Moko. From there we met in the halls of UVI during the Islands in Between conference, and over hearty helpings of steamed fish at the Petite Pump Room as I waited on a ferry. Not all of our grand plans and hopes have solidified, but Moko is here all the same and we are both hopeful that the Caribbean is better for our little contribution.

One of the things we always knew was that Moko would inhabit a virtual space. We could not afford a print production, and this has undoubtedly served the platform well in the intervening years. Something else we knew is that we needed folks willing to give us the best part of themselves in order for Moko to grow into anything like what it has become today. In that, we have been incredibly blessed. We offer special thanks to the ones who have stuck with us from the beginning as well as Andre for so willingly picking up this mantle.

Eight years ago in that first issue of Moko, the inaugural editorial set out the platform’s purpose, a dedication to publishing new works by emerging and established poets, fiction writers, and artists in and from the Caribbean. I believe that we have upheld that focus throughout these twenty issues, but more so we have been blessed with the quality of contributors we have seen. Over the years, many of the featured writers and artists have transitioned from emerging to established, and we like to think that we played a small part in that as well.

The days go past us in a hurry. It would seem that every moment that seeks to tease a return to what normal was, or paints the glossy potential of a post-pandemic future fades. But the days go past us in a hurry, the future is inevitable. This too must pass, they say. And so it shall.

And so it shall.

On behalf of all of us at Moko, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s been on this journey with us: the poets, the short story writers, the essayists, the book reviewers, the interviewers and interviewees, everyone who regularly submits work, and, of course, our devoted readers. We’ve a lot of things planned for our forthcoming issues so please stay tuned. Meanwhile, as Richard and David noted, the days go past us in a hurry, the future is inevitable. We look forward to whatever comes. And, particularly, to being able to toast properly the next issue, Moko 21.

 – Andre Bagoo

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