Those that don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. Consequently, those that do learn the lessons of history are also doomed to repeat it, because honestly, we only need to watch the news to see how few people are studying for the exam.
But we are constantly immersed in history. It informs everything we do. It’s what we breathe. Even in a year where so much seems out of whack – the shambolic election, the standoff in Standing Rock, the continued perpetration of acts of violence on persons of color by people in authority – we are still playing out the consequences of events going back centuries. Others have made that point before, about how the battles over slavery and the massacre of the native population still reverberate, but somehow, they’re still made out in some circles to be academic points, bearing no relevance in contemporary events. Which is logic that only works if you willfully ignore the circumstances of … well … everything.
There are people who want the world to exist in a constant state of “now,” with yesterday having no bearing on their actions. I envy them, a little – an understanding of history can be kind of a burden, sometimes – but when we’re seeing surges of violence based on race, religion, sexuality or gender identification, and our president-elect fails to separate himself from praise when it comes from the likes of white supremacist leader Richard Spencer or former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, then something is seriously wrong with the world.
It seems so dark outside, right now. It’s hard to see any way in which poetry can matter in this sort of landscape. But still, the poems come. And still, we seek words with which to speak to the night. It seems impossibly Quixotic, even absurd. As though a handful of words could bend the course of nations. And maybe that was never the point. Maybe it’s enough for a poem to thaw one heart out there somewhere in the darkness, enough for a poem to tug the ear a bit of someone staring into the abyss. Maybe it’s enough for the poems to steady the poets themselves when they’re confronted with the void, as we all are, in our turn. It’s impossible to say, except for this: We know this act of writing poetry is necessary, because the need screams in our blood.
These, then, are our 2016 nominees for the Pushcart Prize. They are poems which all connect to history, in some way, and to the drama that seems to unfold in front of us over and over. These poems are the smallest of lights against the blackened sky, but even a matchstick can ward off the cold for a while, and sometimes that’s enough.
Our 2016 Pushcart Prize Nominees
•“The Bookseller,” by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming (Pub. Jan. 9, 2016)
•“death speaks to the child of the immigrant,” by Adam Hamze (Pub. May 29, 2016)
•“Sestina Lot# 41994,” by Heather J. Macpherson (Pub. June 21, 2016)
•“Poem Written on the Anniversary of Mike Brown’s Murder, Ending in a Pearl,” by Julian Randall (Pub. July 8, 2016)
•“Song Fragments From the Brokenhearted Chorus,” by Marvin Bell, Eirean Bradley, Tony Brown, Jenith Charpentier, Lea Deschenes, Richard H. •Fox, Victor D. Infante, Suzanne Lummis, Heather J. Macpherson, Ellyn Maybe, Jaimes Palacio and Sholeh Wolpe (Pub. July 10, 2016)
•“Is this How Empathy Ends?” by sam sax (Pub. Nov. 18, 2016)
As always, thank you to all of contributors for allowing us to share in your brilliance and fearlessness. Thank you for making Radius the unique journal that it is.
Victor D. Infante
Radius: Poetry From the Center to the Edge
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