This issue of Moko Magazine comes right in the middle of Pride. A few weeks ago, Trinidad and Tobago convened its fifth pride parade. Days later, Bermuda held its own celebration for the third consecutive year. Later this month, Curaçao Pride kicks off. And of course metropolitian centres around the world such as New York and London have recently held their own pride celebrations in which countless members of the Caribbean diaspora annually participate.
Perhaps all of the poems in our 21st issue stand for what these events commemorate. Rajiv Mohabir’s stunning new cycle of poems dialogues with the work of Kabir, a 15th-century Indian poet, mystic and saint. They sing of a poetic dis-inheritance, of literary ancestry ruptured by the ongoing historical processes of empire and colonialism; of personal anomie: unrequited love, love frustrated, love banned by society and self (“I am a mustard seed who tricks / myself into disbelief”). But amid their dark night of the soul is light and surprising power. These are exquisite poems in which honeybees beat about within a heart’s chamber and “your very breath / is the Name” cried out into the wilderness.
There is also rupture (and rapture) in Lysanne Charles’ ‘women like me’. Here, the world and its disordered disjunctions are signaled by a run-on poetic line slashed by virgules. The use of this device (without spacing except at one crucial moment) brings forth a sense of constraint and claustrophobia, giving us a sense of the poem as a draft: an intermediary form, perhaps, between prose and verse (a prose poem, maybe) that is as unsettled as the world is itself a work-in-progress. Here, too, “whispers become roars” and each slash adds to mounting pressure placed on a dam of constraint. That dam does rupture in C.R. Glasgow’s ‘i be angsty’, where the voice of the poem is positioned to reject narratives of the past, but in the process invokes such narratives still. If there are such antinomies at work here, the poet finds a way to trump them, declaring “this ain’t my throne”. That itself is a claim to the crown.
Topher Allen is a poet who has written powerfully about queer experience in Jamaica, but here we turn our attention to his fiction with a story that delves into the impact of illness on a family. Geraldine Skeete, an academic known for her examination of queer issues in Caribbean texts, presents us with another side of her repertoire: a short story that examines the very community referred in the last sentence of our opening paragraph.
The issue is rounded off with Marshelle Andrew Haseley’s personal account of reading Ingrid Persaud’s acclaimed novel Love After Love (that ending!) and Stephen Narain graces us with his prose once more, this time in an essay that makes a claim linking Anthony Vesna So’s beautiful collection of short stories Afterparties to ideas of Guyanese-American family dynamics. We also feature a link to our newly-launched podcast, Sky Words, the inaugural episode of which featured Jason Allen-Paisant, as well as images by photographer Alexander Phoenyx.
In our last editorial, I alluded to the fact that when you turn 21, you pass into adulthood in a way: in some countries that’s when you can drink alcohol and in some countries that’s when you can drive certain vehicles (though in no countries is drinking and driving encouraged!) If as a magazine, with a tiny volunteer staff, we are still adulting, so too is the Caribbean.
This issue comes as several countries mark key milestones relating to independence from Britain. Jamaica celebrated independence on August 6, Trinidad and Tobago is currently engaged in an entire month of celebrations, Belize, St Kitts and Nevis will this month celebrate its independence, and Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines will do so in coming weeks. In the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, as the region takes stock of how much progress has been made since the 1960s, part of the dialogue must include how far we have come in removing colonial-era homophobic laws and it keeping the streets passable for members of the LGBTQ+ community. As suggested by much of this issue’s content, it is clear not enough progress has been made. But perhaps we should not give up hope. Perhaps, like the poetry and prose herein, we should view this moment as simply one beset by growing pains.