Jenn Givhan: This summer has gotten scorching hot in New Mexico—as I’m uploading the gorgeous new issue of Tinderbox, and it’s 104 degrees here and I’m sweating like I’ve eaten too many green chiles at once, I’ll tell you I don’t think it’s just the weather that’s burning me up inside but these poems. This is the first issue curated by my new team of readers while I’m at the helm as Editor-in-Chief, and I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’re putting out into this sometimes broken (still nearly always with some glint of beauty, even if we have to squint) world.
We’re working to shape the journal into one that reflects the multivalent voices and lenses of underrepresented cultures and identities in U.S. literature, including the experiences of diaspora and immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and women of color. We still love all poems that both shatter and repair us, that devastate us and give us hope, but we’re keenly aware every day, every moment of what Lucille Clifton writes: “come celebrate / with me that everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed” (Poets.org).
In the news this morning, Nabra Hassanen, a seventeen-year-old Muslim girl coming home from her mosque, was assaulted and killed. We poets sometimes argue amongst ourselves about the validity or necessity or possibility of poems. We argue about whether or not poetry is dying when the world is dying—has always been dying. And I want to scream, Create. Live. Speak. Sing. Tell our stories while we can. Listen. Most of all maybe, listen to each other.
This issue of Tinderbox hopes to sing these stories and voices.
Majda Gama: Here we are already at the Summer Solstice and the first issue of Tinderbox I truly read for is ready to go live. As these poems landed in my Submittable queue, assigned by the always kind-but-firm Jenn, I found myself experiencing America in an entirely new way. The US government transferred power to the new administration without even caring to pick an inaugural poet, but the voices I read in our submissions belied the mono-culture spreading across the country. I dipped in often to look at the accepted poems and poems-in-progress (Leila Ortiz, Hala Alyan, Phil Saint Denis Sanchez gave me wonder) so that I could refresh and remind myself of the best of what we can create in the dark of winter. I remember as a girl in Saudi Arabia travelling out on a Friday to my family’s beach house on the Red Sea, and passing by a palm oasis that everyone called Twenty-One palms. It was my marker that I was close to a refuge, a place to restore myself before the school week began on a Saturday, as it did back then in Saudi. This issue is my oasis in the hot part of the American year, in a year none of us really expected to have to live through. And we all know so many beautiful people are not making it through, which makes the truth-telling nature of poetry so urgent right now. I hope this issue can be your oasis.
Jenn: Yes! So beautifully put, Majda! I am immensely grateful for the poets who’ve contributed to this beautiful oasis and refuge, and the readers (as you, poeta) who’ve helped me curate it.
Finally, speaking of reminding ourselves of the wonder of the best we can create, we Tinderboxers are outrageously excited to read your contest entries for the 2017 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize, judged this year by Sun Yung Shin. The contest is open from June 21 to August 21, and all finalists and winners will be published in our Winter Solstice issue.
Contest submission information can be found here.
Thank you with all my heart to our readers and contributors. May we continue creating into the break—
may we keep singing our resistance/survival songs and finding refuge in each other. We dedicate this issue to the beautiful resisters who by their very existence challenge the status quo. We dedicate this issue to the fallen beauties, as Nabra Hassanen. Until we make this world worthy of you.