Welcome to our new online poetry series, Turtle Island Responds
I write you from my desk in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh. As a Manitoba Métis/Icelander from Territory 1, I am grateful to those whose lands I live on. This series was inspired by Rattle Magazine’s Poets Respond and the many conversations I have had with others who have found themselves on the fringes. I am aware that so much has happened and continues to happen in these lands known as Turtle Island. At times I feel powerless, and when this happens I write. Many a poem has been written in ‘response’ to what I have seen on the news or being discussed on social media. Yet most poems are not published until months or years after the news cycle that may have inspired them. There are few opportunities for real-time dialogue or engagement (about the news) via poetry so each time I opened my weekly email from Rattle and read the engaging submissions, I began to dream about Room offering this same opportunity, but with a twist.
Because the news cycle is so often viewed from the lens of colonizers and those in power we ask that only those from marginalized communities or those directly affected by the news submit. Operating from the premise of ‘no stories about us, without us’ this series will be curated with this in mind so please provide (brief) background information as to why this poem and maybe even why now. For more information on how to submit click here. But first read on.
We will launch this series with a poem from someone who is becoming a dear friend, Fatima Amarshi. Her poem, “To All the White People Who Voted for Change but Not to Hurt Me,” landed deeply inside me and yet some who read it seemed to not quite get what she was putting down. Or perhaps they were put off by the “To All the White People . . .” and stopped listening. Yet who better to speak to the ugliness and fearmongering offered to us by a man with gold toilets. It is well documented that hate crimes spiked the day after Trump was elected. Fatima’s poem was prophetic. She knew what was next. This is a poem that should have had a home the day after the election just as those from the Indigenous community writing about the disappointing verdicts re Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine’s murders should have a place for their poetry while it was still being discussed in the press.
There has been much talk about concern for all marginalized groups and reconciliation, which many say they want, but for many this is only if it will not cost them anything; if there is no need to taste the bitterness of what ‘others’ have had to live with. Perhaps those who found Fatima’s “To All the White People . . .” leaving a bad taste in their mouth actually needed to swallow the much-needed medicine being offered. If they stopped reading and started only to think of themselves, they missed out. I strongly suggest reading on. It will change you. And then perhaps we can all grow together in solidarity.
—All my Relations ~ Jónína Kirton
“To All the White People Who Voted for Change but Not to Hurt Me”
by Fatima Amarshi