What Is Left Unsaid

Elfreda Tetteh and Akhim Alexis

While the world revels in uncertainty and attends to its divided movements, there lies balance in the continuum of written word, the constant documentation of aging discomforts and re-membering of benign histories. Among the imperfect dimensions of human affairs, art remains an oscillating entity, and nothing proves that more than the work in this issue. It is an inventory unmatched.

In these poems, the ambiguities of language unfurl through concrete metaphors and powerful imagery, as the writers invent reality with private sorrows, extreme otherness and scenes from the mundane. The visual grammar is palpable. Glimpses of contrast and sameness create a stunning and diverse mosaic which demonstrates how the poetic serves humanity. What is left unsaid resides between the lines.

There is an expansive harmony in each line as Jay Kophy interrogates the forms of water in his poem Returning, where language and memory permit a reflection on the gulf between history and meaning. In Ebony Chinn’s poems, careful connections are made between landscape, insects and ordinary human activities as she simultaneously illuminates and conceals familial histories in Without Asking. Anointing Obuh takes the pantoum on a journey of flaws and fears, ensuring that “all the messy feelings left to roost, defeathered”. The spirit of this line leaks into her two part poem Joy Baby, where a mother attempts to reconnect with her child. We feel a sense of displacement and reckoning in Maxine Archer’s poem Moving Towards Refuse as she incorporates exigent imagery to take us from a poem on street dwelling to another on mothering. Wallace Lane’s poem invites readers to witness a compact fusion of confession, biblical allusion and Black American culture, reminding us that “there are some things that cannot be born beloved.” While Moyosore Orimoloye opens a world within worlds through a magical opening line which evolves from the title of his poem In Spite of Rumours as he writes:

 In spite of rumours
mornings are darker than nights.

The magnetic pull of this line is both brilliant and terrifying.

All this and more is captured, all renunciations and restlessness, death and it’s attendants, birth and its revelations, the uncovered inner lingua and the lodgings of memory. What is left unsaid resides between the lines of this utterly locatable inventory of poetry

The stories [in this issue] are an ode to how we draw on our lived Black experience to create a storyscape tethered to this reality, yes, but reimagined in diverse and brilliant ways.

In Isaiah Frost Rivera’s ‘Pull Me Back’, a consequential moment is suspended, then stretched out to hold you tense, tight, speeding through an endless assault of internal monologues right down to the final noisy end. Itumeleng Molefi’s ‘Mouwane and The Witch Next Door’ weaves together themes of filial love and Southern African spirituality to deliver a fast-moving speculative horror mystery. ‘Here Come the Portuguese Women’ is a razor-sharp satire; a commentary on the absurdities of colonialism. In it, Joao Melo writes with a dry sense of normalcy even as he describes a hilarious hysteria which, considering the behaviour of colonialists, may very well have happened in some distant “colony”. In the crime-noir world of ‘Connections’, a “badass” politician stubbornly clings to the hallowed memory of an ancestor even while she tries to make sense of a truth that threatens the identity she has so carefully built. Ngozi John’s ‘Maradan’ sweeps you into a colourful folktale that immediately feels new, yet familiar thanks to its rich use of Yorùbá oral storytelling techniques.

In delightful comparison, Allegra Solomon’s Yours explores the complexity of human connections with quiet restrained language that truly makes her characters the stars of their story.

The personal as the political. The personal is political. Nowhere else is this demonstrated than in the growing writing of personal essays as we have observed over the past year. Maybe we have grown to be more introspective – a result of our present circumstances.

Gervaise Savvias’s four-part essay is, by the writer’s own definition, “a representational account of growing up; a rumination on growing older; a relation to the existence of love, and a discovery of comfortability in the ongoing process of moving forward.” It is a deeply personal and beautifully rendered story of youth, written with such raw emotional power that infuses poetry in it. “I wanted to make my mother happy; I wanted to give her good life,” Uduak-estelle declares in an essay on family written in pidgin. Language creates rooms for us to live in, and by using a language most familiar to her, the writer opens up other rooms for everyone. Hassan Kassim weaves us through his various griefs and takes us on a journey that uses memories to map out a life in an essay apply titled ‘And Like a Flame That Flickers Out Too Soon’.

In perhaps what some would consider a radical shift from the tone of the deeply personal essays we have published in our previous issues, Yarri Kamara delves into the politics of hair, in ‘Hair as Freedom’, an essay that’s incisive and makes it’s arguments using both historical and current conversations around Black hair. This is an account I hope to see essay responses to because whether you agree or disagree with the core of the argument, you can’t help but see why the writer would take certain positions in this definitive work.

To photograph is to allow others to see what needs seeing, to tell a story that needs telling. Laeila Adjovi’s powerful photoessay opens with the question: “How do you photograph the act of waiting? How do you make pictures of separation, expectation, longing?” It is a singular and urgent work that documents the lonely lives of the wives of the men who try to reach Europe by sea – those who succeed and those who tragically die on the way. Guilherme Bergamini’s colourful visual narrative is one that tries to trace red in different spaces as he journeys through Brazil to find and be able to tell the story of an omnipresent colour.

These stories, essays, poems and photographs are dazzling, genre-bending things; a masterful use of an unforgiving form and a rebellion against the limiting definition of The Black Artist. Perhaps it’s overly simple to just say they are very, very good but that is the truth and we’re excited for you to see why.

Akhim Alexis is a writer born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. He holds an MA in Literatures in English from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.  He was a finalist for the 2020 Brooklyn Caribbean Lit Fest Elizabeth Nunez Award for Writers in the Caribbean for his short story ‘Gone America.’, and a finalist for the 2021 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize. His work has appeared in or are forthcoming in The McNeese Review, Chestnut Review, Juked, Finished Creatures, No Contact, Welter, Moth Magazine, Blue Earth Review, JMWW, Moko Magazine, The Caribbean Writer, and others.

Elfreda Tetteh is a writer and copywriter from Ghana. She has a background in student activism and social justice. She is currently working on a project that explores the connection between African women and their matriarchs through food eaten and shared during periods of conflict.