Based on Tembi Locke’s memoir, “From Scratch” followed the pedestal of an eruptive relationship between a couple with different cultural backgrounds. What started as an innocently growing love between Texan artist Amy (Zoe Saldaña) and Italian chef Lino (Eugenio Mastrandrea) soon became a daring narrative about sickness, perseverance, commitment, dreams, and ultimately, death. But something else was happening in the backdrop: the possibility of using language to scale a hurdle, connect with people, and navigate trauma.
The power lying in the stories we tell as a people resonates with the time we spend living the story. We often find ourselves reaching for memories because the story we are currently living is still fermenting. Nostalgia is both a poetic and realistic tool. For instance, December in Nigeria is different from December in Iowa. It snowed yesterday, so there is a spread of snow on my lawn this morning. The lawn overlooks the grey mansion where a man and his wife water their plants every morning. A man with a big belly mowed the sidewalk connecting Burlington boulevard with Lucas street. There are no children outside. No loud music from the barber’s shop where children are gathered in the afternoon watching Wrestlemania on the 14” tv placed outside. In Ibadan, festivity is synonymous with memories of people and friends. Not a time spent with books and the distilled silence in the clear sky. Again, nostalgia is the difference in the stories we tell. I wonder about the similarities of experience in very different spaces, placing Iowa city by Ibadan.
We attempt to do this when Agbowo calls for its unthemed issues—bring writers together from the vindicatory obscurity or the evanescent affluence from which they write. See who is writing “from scratch” or is telling their part of a story already told by another, like in Tope Abigail’s What it means to be born in the Niger Delta where there is an emptying of memory:
Their eyes emptied of memories of their
lover’s rubs. The lull of the water
wrung around what is left of their bodies.
What is factored in the stories is the individuality of the characters. The story might have happened differently if Amy (Zoe Saldaña) was a singer or a dancer. What would happen differently in Moustapha Mbacké Diop’s Liberté if the narrative was told of the 19-year-old boy from a street in Zambezi, although in another reality, Liberté is a different film set in the 18th century, telling the story of the libertines that spend a night of sexual debauchery in the forest. Individuality does not exempt the author. Instead, it gives them the liberty of creation. I’ve always wanted to ask this about the creation story—if you were the maker, what would you create first—light or music? The sea of the sons of men? Or paradise and hell? Darkness from which you draw the poetic instincts to write about the impossibilities of light?
What do you want?
There is no easy answer to this in this Y issue that we have collected for our readers. Ucheoma Onwutuebe’s story creates a murder board of desires for her characters. In one breath, Nzube is asking for the liberty of self, regardless of her encroaching baldness. She wants to be desired. In another light, what Eloka wants would not matter as long as he is silent about his desires. The stories, essays and poems in this issue live in a natural world bodied by spectacle and magnificence at the brink of wonder. Again, would what Nzube desires differ if she is not going bald? If Eloka didn’t like Wordle, what can words do?
In Novo Amor’s Repeat Until Death, the repetition of I can’t breathe anymore at the end of four-minute-long track strikes with angst, a perfect refrain to leave with the power of loss properly palmed into the slow indie. In the same spirit, the works in this issue are driven forward by the knowledge that narratives exist within us. And that it is possible to disrupt someone else’s story to derive another. Although only some are storytellers, everybody is a story.
This issue also features NLNG winner and the shortlisted poets Romeo Oriogun, Su’eddi Agema and Saddiq Dzukogi, whose works highlight range and verisimilitude.
I invite you to enjoy our first November Issue, Y.
Yours in Writing,
Iowa City, Iowa.
Moustapha Mbacké Diop
Birds Breaking From Trees
A Brief Record Of Disappearance
Letter To Self
Like My Dreams Weren’t Made Of Glass
S. Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Through My Window, The Demons Within
S. Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Here, Where This Wall Stands
For Those We Cannot Truly Know
At First, There Was No Blood: Unlearning Afro-Womanism
Adeniyi Temitope Adekunle