In a season of jasmine
Outside of my picture window in Berkeley, California, there are flower bounty cycles at play: new fuschia buds of jasmine ready to burst open; tender white flowers sharing their enveloping perfume; and the browning petals past their brief flourish. All beautiful in promise. It is a study in cycles that pushes me to also celebrate the release of a third book, sombra : (dis)locate from Salmon Poetry, 2016.
In this book, this poet converses with spirits of the living and the dead, spirits tied to location and dissembled by dislocation. The book offers a scrying cartography, exploring liminality with poems that exist at threshold. They are situated very much in the vibrant present with an eye towards the prophetic, itself a balance between shade and light, the dismal and ecstatic. It is in this book that I finally discovered a little of what it means to be living in joy, and this comes through, even before opening the book. The cover was designed by Matteo Monchiero, my husband, with changes made by graphic designer, Siobhán Hutson.
Matteo and I married just this past October, a gilded fall wedding in Philadelphia. On the cover of sombra : (dis)locate, the pictures are primarily family photographs, moments of joy: my grandmother and grandfather caught in a stolen kiss; my father as a child dressed in a suit, his mother in the foreground; Josephine Baker as pictured from a metro stop in Paris; a vined trellis in Bamberg, Germany; and travel trinkets. All of these are woven into strips, a reminiscence of color photo negatives, conjuring what persists in memory.
As this latest book comes into the world, I think on other joys. I’ve recently received two awards at Saint Mary’s College (Early Career Award and the CILSA Engaged Faculty Award); had a few poems published; started work on my thesis, which is one of my final requirements for the MFA in Poetry I will finish this May at Saint Mary’s College of California. What are your joys?
We know very well that these are hard times as hate speech and violence push to the fore all around us. Not every day is filled with jasmine; rather, some days it feels to me as the day is filled with poisoned barbs and hidden daggers. Still, a resistance can be found in the small celebratory moment, the reflective space amid the inundation of chaos. Resistance can also be in the act of reading a poem or many (as Amanda Johnston and Mahogany Brown know through their work leading Black Poets Speak Out).
Share those moments of joy and resistance with me on Twitter at #sombra, a hashtag to hint at how even in the shadows, joy. The defiant act of joy.