A Literary Folio
Curated by J. P. Howard
I write this during an unprecedented time in the world. Many, if not most of us around the country/world, have been sheltered-in for months, due to COVID-19 and the current pandemic. This pandemic has caused enormous loss of life, incredible stress and collective grief; as I write this, thousands of protesters are marching and chanting outside of my Brooklyn, NY window seeking justice for black lives, violently taken away from us too soon, due to police brutality and racism, an insidious pandemic in this country. This call for submissions, centered on Nurturing Through a Pandemic, sought work from both mother and/or grandmother writers, reflecting on their experiences, including their parenting journeys, during this pandemic. I invited these six talented writers to explore the ups, downs and challenges they or their families are experiencing while sheltering-in. The voices included here reflect a diverse rainbow of Mamas, Grand (Mama) Divas; all powerful writers sharing their stories/their poems/their narratives during a time when our voices deserve to be lifted up. This call was put out during the height of this pandemic and well before our recent and necessary Black Lives Matter protests across the country. My hopes are that a future folio will allow us space to continue to document our stories, ones that reflect the experiences of families like mine, who are raising black and brown children, during both a pandemic and a time of great political unrest, while simultaneously fearing for the lives of our children. Each of the voices in this folio is significant, no matter where they are on their motherhood journey. I am honored to be a part of a journal that allows us to document the unique challenges we Mamas face. My youngest son, a 15-year old high schooler, like so many children, has struggled with having to suddenly switch to online schooling, coupled with no physical contact with his friends and extended family. It has been one of the most difficult times in his young life and as a parent, it has been heartbreaking to witness his struggles, yet important for our family to support him throughout. I know this has been a challenging time for all families and I share this folio in solidarity with those seeking to keep our families safe, loved and supported, during a time when we parents and caretakers, are also struggling with our own fears, frustrations and emotional needs. Below I share two short poems of mine, as an intro to this folio; they give you a brief glimpse into my current experience during this pandemic. Thank you to all the phenomenal writers in this folio for your necessary narratives. I invite you to read their powerful words, in hopes it will inspire YOU to document your own experiences.
Tanka for my Son During a Pandemic
Our teen wants to stay
safe inside our home each day
We shelter him in
Our home, the safest space now
We Mamas don’t push, just love
Haibun for Resilience during a Pandemic
we are writing our way through grief. we are finding new ways to be joyful. we are telling fear to have a back seat. some days we are scared and alone. we are never truly alone. we are only a phone call or a poem away from someone who loves us. we are love and loved and loving. we are breathing. we are alive and present. we are inhaling fear and exhaling calm. we are sad, but we are not letting our sadness define us. we are a quiet whisper at night. we are hush baby don’t you cry mamas in early morning hours. we are the shock of blue sky against a new york skyline.
we will come for you
we will bring our resilience
we will not give up
JP Howard is an educator, literary activist, curator and community builder. Her debut poetry collection, SAY/MIRROR, was a Lambda Literary finalist. She is also the author of bury your love poems here (Belladonna*) and co-editor of Sinister Wisdom Journal Black Lesbians–We Are the Revolution! JP has received fellowships from Cave Canem, VONA, Lambda Literary and Brooklyn Arts Council and curates Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon, a New York-based monthly literary series. Her poetry is widely anthologized. JP is the Editor-At-Large of Mom Egg Review VOX online. http://www.jp-howard.com