The poetry editors on creating imprint's first poetry pamphlet and the role of creative writing in activist circles.
by Kezia Rice and Sophie Haxworth
There is an interesting divergence at the heart of activist writing about how to drive social change.
On one side is the heavily information-driven article with its sense of shareable urgency — this is the kind of writing we often think about when considering activism — but on the other end of the spectrum is the slower-burning appeal of creative writing.
'at the heart of our mission is a call to action... where does poetry fit?'
Over the course of imprint’s first year, we’ve been lucky enough to publish pieces across this spectrum. And now at the release of our first print publication, Emergence, we sat down to think: at the heart of our mission is a call to action, so where does poetry sit in that narrative?
While informative articles are crucial to spreading awareness, the key precursor to any change is an invitation to care. Connecting with a social or environmental issue on a human level is the most powerful way to reach that muscle of feeling that begins any action. A landscape loaded with facts and statistics is not the kind we see outside; we see ‘flowers bloom[ing] in cycle / revealing the delicate / sweet nectar.’ (Shyan Hunte, ‘Centuries’, Emergence).
Poetry inhabits our experience with much more complexity than infographics ever could.
But without either side of activist writing, the other would crumble in futility. We need writing from every angle to support and complement each other — feelings, numbers to visualise, personal stories, interrogation of thinking, all play into a wider slate to spark change. But it is interesting to consider the role of creativity especially now, a year into a pandemic that has slowed the average pace of life considerably. Perhaps there is a little more time to take in slower forms of writing, a little more space to reflect on ambiguity.
'Perhaps there is a little more space to reflect on ambiguity.'
That pace was an inspiration for Emergence as a physical pamphlet. Amongst imprint’s online base, we wanted to create something tangible, something to interact and connect with in the analogue way, as a home for the kind of poetry you want to sit with for a while.
As a theme for activist poetry, Emergence was born along similar lines. Much like many others, we have thought a lot about lockdown as a metaphor for the cocooning, forging experience that precedes coming out as a more true version of yourself. We don’t need a lockdown to provoke this, but through the lens of activism, there is always a moment, a transformative experience that ends in seeing and expressing your own values more clearly.
The word ‘emergence’, so close to its cousin ‘emergency’, treads a delicate path between the hope and despair often circulating in activist groups. Alongside this and the more explicit natural image of blossoming in time for our spring release, we hoped Emergence would provoke something for our poets.
Their response comprises the pamphlet — a collection of 8 poems across environmentalism, gender identity, feminism and mental health, threaded together with imagery of emerging and the various degrees of empowerment that brings. ‘I came out of the wet forest /… to chant the pagan songs of my sisters’ writes Ivana Cholakova (‘The Devil’s Lover’, Emergence), while Katie Usher conjures the tentative image, ‘You are a chrysalis / full of caution and colour. / Pushing on the walls / of your own skin’ (‘Poem for Sunday’, Emergence).
Poetry, when brought together in a collection like this, can offer a surprising relationship between individual pieces. Emergence is elemental; water runs through it, a greedy tide eroding a father and son’s relationship (Lily Annis, ‘from The Coastal Poem’), a silent sea under a ship of awakened mushroom species (Rose London, ‘Mushrooms Shipped to Thilafushi’), or an elusive gendering force ‘between watery depths and air tending to sky’ (Nancy Daykin, ‘In the Liminal Sands’); while fire joins a heavier air to form the haze of ‘On this enduring fever’ (Sophie Haxworth). ‘The path to home is overloaded with these blooms’, says Kezia Rice in her spoken word piece (‘A Low Point’), rooting the collection back into the earth.
We hope you find something in or between these lines to feed your own call to action, and we hope you emerge peacefully from your own cocoons.
How to buy the pamphlet
Emergence is now available to purchase in both physical and digital form. The physical
pamphlet is printed on recycled paper and the spine is hand sewn in a unique natural colour by the imprint team. It contains the 7 written poems plus access to the digital version where you can listen to the 8th spoken word poem.
Physical + digital (UK and EU) = £6 including FREE UK postage and + £1.50 EU postage
Digital only (Worldwide) = £3
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to place an order and we’ll be in touch.
All proceeds go towards supporting imprint’s continuing mission.
Kezia Rice is happiest finding greenery on her runs and swimming everywhere from Lancashire rivers to Berlin lakes or Croatian beaches. She has previously written for imprint about everything from living without a car to the problematics of Love Island to her passion for charity shopping to dressing as an angel and using less makeup. Read her lockdown sewing experiments, part one and two. She also writes poetry: read here and here.
Sophie Haxworth is a poet and all round words-enthusiast who particularly enjoys using them for good, but can also be found using them to spout nonsensical musings or attempting to start serious conversations about art at social gatherings. Follow her doing all of the above on instagram @haxwordth, and check out her previous works, I am Full of Leaves, Speed, and Exchanging Alternatives: Vegan to Non-Vegan.