The collective “I” in Issue 50 of The Critical Flame is one of protest, of comedy, and, hopefully, of the zeitgeist. As the guest editor for this issue, I’ve attempted to gather some of the most urgent voices working on race, critical pedagogy, and the intersection of poetry and place. Among these pieces are a meditation on whiteness; an interview with elegist Paul Lisicky on friendship and loss; and intimate interviews with African American poets from Charleston, also known as “The Holy City.” Also discussed: How is blackness lived in Seattle? How is queerness lived in Brooklyn? Whose boots are on the ground in Baltimore and Southern Mississippi? I am proud of the fact that these pieces ask us to look beyond the Left Coast and to center literary lights in the South and the Northwest.
Well represented—indeed, likely over-represented—among these pieces are the voices of clear-eyed poets, and I wonder if this is because their calling is one untethered to the boundaries of prose and polite conversation: all the poets I know are beasts and dreamers, prescient souls containing multitudes. As I gathered the tribes, I was floored by the behind-the-scenes glimpse at the teaching of poet Natalie Diaz, who is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian community. I was smitten with the initiative and wildly intelligent and diverse undergraduates at the University of Mississippi. In fact, if I had to cite one theme among these disparate pieces, I’d have to point to the role of pedagogy in the most Freireian sense: all these educators seeking conscientization for their students, their passion shining bright.
In fact, the work collected here reminds me of the ephemeral World Trade Center monument that burned so brightly and dazzingly that this duo of four-mile-high floodlights had to be shut down to release the thousands of birds whose migratory patterns had been interrupted by the illuminated night sky. This metaphor feels apt. Thousands of birds trapped in tunnels of light. We, too, are these beacons of light, we, too, are the vulnerable animals disrupted by the intensity of others, we, too, are the recipients of this thunderclap of energy rooted deep in the earth. Yet launched into the night heavens above. I hope you are lifted by this tribe of poets, writers, and teachers.
Ricco Villanueva Siasoco, Contributing Editor, has published stories and essays in AGNI, Joyland, Post Road, The North American Review, and numerous anthologies including Walang Hiya (Carayan Press, 2010) and Screaming Monkeys (Coffee House Press, 2003). In 2013, he was selected as a NYC Emerging Writer Fellow from The Center for Fiction. Ricco received his MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and has taught at Boston College and the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. He is a board member of Kundiman, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature. Ricco is completing a PhD in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and completing his first novel.