Now freshly in my 27th year on this earth, I imagine most observers would qualify me as a young man, and with only a few years of publishing experience under my belt, I almost certainly qualify as a young poet in the traditional sense. An emerging poet, as they say, the implication, the suggestion here being one of ascension, almost as if out of nowhere. But that all sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it? Every poet comes from somewhere, comes with a story and maybe a few scars as well, which ultimately makes every poet important. And young poets are vitally important, the foremost agents of innovation and democratization of our beloved art form, bending its trajectory toward its rightful place as a cornerstone of our social character. Because of this, I tend to look to up-and-comers for inspiration; my peers, more or less, are my professors, at least as much as experience is; we stand to learn just as much from our youth as we do from our elders, and learning, I suppose, was my impetus for trying to organize this collection of work from tremendous poets who have so much to say to the world.
There are nine poets whose work is included in this folio, and collectively, they represent a wide range of life perspectives and styles, and each also with their own well-defined poetics informing their crafts: Diannely Antigua, Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Kristin Chang, Sean DesVignes, Victoria Newton Ford, Marwa Helal, Nkosi Nkululeko, Noel Quiñones and Lauren Yates. In asking for their contribution to this project, I gave these phenomenal poets complete freedom in regards to content, insisting only on the opportunity to feature their honest and carefully rendered work. In reading their pieces, and their own statements about their conviction to create, you will come to know each of them better as poets and as human beings, and I will hold my tongue here somewhat as to allow for that feeling of discovery to transpire organically. All I wish to ask is that you take the time to savor what they’ve created, to respect and acknowledge the vulnerable pieces of themselves they’ve shared in hopes that it encourages that same level of consideration and concern as your eyes turn away from the page (or screen, rather) and back toward the world outside. In days like these, we could all use such tenderness. We could all stand to know we can be seen.
Cortney Lamar Charleston
Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. A recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, his poems have appeared in POETRY, New England Review, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, River Styx and elsewhere. Discover more here.