I’m also so pleased with the work we featured in Issue 10. Am I allowed to pick favorites in my own magazine? It feels a bit like picking favorites in my own house. Okay you all know Rooster is my favorite Vizsla, so who am I kidding. I have a favorite in Issue 10 and it is the essay Rikers Island Workshop by Kamilah Aisha Moon. This is such a poignant and moving and generous and thoughtful account of Kamilah’s work teaching poetry at Rikers Island Prison. This essay does what I want all writing to do: it makes me empathize completely with everyone in it. I feel like I’m there. And I care about everyone around me. I aspire to write like Kamilah, with such honesty and clarity.
Kamilah Aisha Moon, known as Aisha to her friends, kicked off the reading with Laure-Anne's poem, "Friends," to much applause. Aisha's reading took a firmly narrative stance, offering poems that often seemed to share space with a rich, intimate memoir. Many of her poems centered around the specter of her sister's autism, the first poem, "11/1/77" describing the indelicacy of her sister's birthing physician, an excruciating poem that plumbed the violence of childbirth and the long shadows cast by a careless delivery. She followed with "Borderless Country," a lyric poem with a statistical refrain: "1 in 150" (according to the Washington Post, the number of children who suffer from autism). But the bulk of Aisha's reading was taken up with a long poem in the voices of various family members. Forging an intersticial space between the character-driven theatricality of a play and the lyric interiority of a poem, Aisha offered a series of meditations on difficulty, leaving her audience with a palpable sense of the shape of the family dynamic and how it had formed itself around its most difficult endeavor— the raising of her autistic sister. The poem was unflinchingly honest, and reminded me of Amy Lemmon's recent book, Saint Nobody, which takes on the complexity of raising a child with Down's Syndrome. One of Aisha's last lines on the subject veered toward an earnest confession, a kind of lament— "each visit home frays me / the price I pay for being able to drive away." This type of poem can, I think, open up dialogues about disease and treatment, and I was grateful to hear such a complex rendering of such a (for most) unimaginable task.