What do poets make of a year that has unmasked all our vulnerabilities—our severely underfunded public health infrastructure, our undeniable racial disparities and biases, our growing political sectarianism. 2020, in retrospect, has offered abundant room for nuance— “…how little we had mended…,” to borrow a line from Tracy K. Smith.
While we hoped the start of the new year to be less tumultuous, January 6, 2021 will forever be remembered as the day insurrectionists stormed The Capitol in the name of (and incited by) a treasonous leader. In the meantime, more than 365,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, even as a lack of federal leadership continues to be a major hindrance in what should have been a swift vaccine rollout. I haven’t been an American for very long, but like all naturalized citizens, I took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic… [and to] bear true faith and allegiance to the same…” As I’ve stated in the past, it is an oath I do not take lightly. As a kid, I’ve experienced Martial Law and 10 coups d’etat (we lived three miles away from the site of the world’s first nonviolent revolution which toppled a 20-year authoritarian regime). Then, as now, I believed democracy to be sacred. Then, as now, I’ve done what poets do when faced with disheartening situations: reimagine a better world.
This issue features noted poets—Barbara Berman, Tamiko Beyer, Scott Bird, Karla Brundage, Brian Komei Dempster, Johanna Ely, Paul Fericano, Eugene Gloria, Heath Hyun Houghton, Jenna Le, Timothy Liu, Karen Llagas, Mia Ayumi Malhotra, Hilary Cruz Mejia, Cordelia Naumann, Carol Park, Robert Pesich, Elmer Omar Pizo, Jenny Qi, Robert Ricardo Reese, Dena Rod, Esteban Rodriguez, Annie Stenzel, Eileen Tabios, Victor Barnuevo Velasco, Michael Warr, Chun Yu, and Changming Yuan—and poems of action and introspection, on themes surrounding the pandemic, systemic racism, the presidential election, and transition. Outside of these poems, words have no other power except to take root, to be unbreakable and to be true.
January 8, 2021
Link to Table of Contents.