Whirlwind Issue #10 Letter From the Editor

Read Issue #10

Hello and welcome to the tenth issue of Whirlwind Magazine. The theme of this issue is on the meaning of the word Empire in the 21st century. In this issue we are focusing on the voices of those who have traditionally been marginalized in the literary world. Imperialism in the 21st century has evolved along with globalization, so that the term doesn’t exactly have its old implications (i.e. 19th/20th century American Imperialism, or 18th/19th/20th century British Imperialism) but that of an international elite who wield financial capital as a weapon in order to oppress the vast majority of humanity.

In the meantime, well-meaning individuals who act for progress have become entangled in debates over identity politics. With this issue, we aim to unite the fractured voices of writers and artists of all identities against the real root of both Western oppression and neo-colonialism: those who control globalized financial capital, otherwise known as Empire. In the 21st century, Empire adapts to resistance against it by means of implicit control over media, technology, and education systems, in order to convince people around the world that the process of globalized capitalist oppression works. We all know due to current events that this is not the case.

The following pages include engaging poetry written by contributors from the Philadelphia area and all around the world. Vernita Hall’s poems are beautifully self-aware and steeped in history as she candidly reveals the ugliness of racism. Ryan Eckes boldly speaks out against injustice, exclaiming, “never thank a democrat / for anything / we’re not supposed to be / raped and killed…” and does it in such a gritty and urgent Philly way.

Savannah Cooper-Ramsey eloquently criticizes “…walls constituting nationalism, nonsense.” Mark Danowsky’s chilling prediction of a Post-Trump apocalyptic wasteland speaks volumes. Robin Knight describes the excesses of Oberon in his intellectual isolation. Jessica Murray walks us through the automatic checklist of Empire’s quality control. Julian Tirhma introduces us to Empire’s training video. Our old friend from Jamaica, Gervanna Stephens gives us her take on how oppression makes her feel. Justin Alley’s poem juxtaposes imperialist war in Iraq with our decadent consumption of reality television. Mara Buck’s “What is Aleppo?” takes that now famous question and flips it on its head.

Catriona McAlister’s poetry confronts the luxuries we are so accustomed to in the industrialized world. Tom Pescatore’s poem reflects on the human condition in a lonesome, Philly fashion. Juanita Rey, Sandra Turner-Barnes, Kymberly Brown, Preston Hood, and Molly Day all take a look at womanhood in their own way. Our final poems come from Lamont Steptoe, who delves us into the ultimate form of oppression in slavery. And finally, we have Pegi Eyers with another brilliant essay on the many problems we face when encountering Empire. As always, we’d like to thank you, the reader, for your support and hope you enjoy reading Whirlwind issue #10.

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Cover Art by Andrea Walls

 

Letter from the Editor #9

Dear readers, welcome to the 9th issue of Whirlwind Magazine, which is our two year anniversary edition. It’s been a pleasure sharing so many voices with our audience. In the past two years we have published 167 individual writers in print, many of them having never been published before, and many having been published in the most well known literary publications out there. We’ve published local Philadelphia area writers and artists, and dozens of international voices from all of the world, hailing from countries on every inhabited continent, from Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America. (We’re still waiting on a submission from Antarctica.)

We’ve published in both English and Spanish. We’ve published artwork in a myriad of mediums. We’ve published with an astounding rate of diversity in each issue, without going out of the way to do so. The 9th issue features 13 women writers and 4 men writers of various cultural backgrounds. This issue focuses on the theme of paralysis. James Joyce incorporated the idea of paralysis throughout his famous short story collection Dubliners, in which it has a clear effect on modern people on both a personal and societal level in 20th century life. That idea still applies to life in the 21st century.

We believe that the idea of globalized paralysis sums up the themes we’ve had for Whirlwind Magazine in the past, whether the focus was on our current catastrophic environmental dilemma (issue #8), or continued neo-colonial mistreatment by governments of indigenous peoples (issue #7), or systemic poverty (issue #5), or the debilitating status of veterans suffering from PTSD (issue #4). In the age of neo-liberal world-wide imperialist rule by the few over the many, paralysis is masked by smoke and mirrors progress. The poems and stories in issue #9 reflect upon paralysis in the context of our previous themes, and come together to form a cohesive conclusion to the past two years of our quarterly publication. Our motive is to look beyond the paralytic veneers that are placed before our collective eyes.

Our aim has been and will be to bear witness. In our very first issue, released in July of 2014, I ended my first letter stating that, “[w]e can only hope that this magazine contributes, in any way, to help us keep our ‘…eyes wide open / like luminous winter stars / sentenced to electric chair deaths…’ which is an excerpt from “Nightwatchmen,” a poem featured in our first issue by our founder, Lamont Steptoe. We are proud to present the contributors you’ll find in the following pages, who, you’ll discover have eyes wide open as well. Thanks so much for reading and supporting Whirlwind Magazine. Enjoy!

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issue #9 art by Priscilla Boatwright design by Melissa Rothman

 

Letter From the Editor #8

Dear readers, thank you for opening up our 8th issue of Whirlwind, which focuses on Mother Earth. This one is personal for me, as my own mother has recently been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. A combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors are what cause this particularly dangerous form of cancer, but it’s worth noting that Ovarian Cancer is far more prevalent in industrialized countries, implicating that the chemicals (solvents, dyes, herbicides, and talc) that can cause Ovarian Cancer, are indeed significant culprits. This metaphor, of our mothers becoming poisoned by pollution, their genes being mutated in the very organs that gave life to us, is all too profound when applied to Mother Earth. We’re destroying the planet that gave birth to us, human beings, and we’re threatening the massive suicidal extinction of our own species, not to mention the already apparent extinction of too many other animal species.

In this issue, like all of our past issues, we present to you literature and art that bears witness. However, this issue is more pertinent to social justice than any other topic. We can talk about our identities all we want. We can theorize about intertextuality all we want. We can apply irony to art and literature all we want. But if we don’t confront this existential threat, the threat of fossil fuels, the threat of carbon emissions, the threat of multi-national corporations destroying our planet, mowing down rain forests, killing coral reefs, slaughtering endangered animals, ripping a hole into this planet’s atmosphere, our children and our children’s children will all die. Storms and other weather patterns will become more severe. The seas will rise and flood our cities. The summers will become unbearably hot. And some scientists say it’s too late.

Catastrophists say that if we would have done something in the 1960’s, then we could have saved ourselves. They say that individuals can do nothing to stop the irreversible, oncoming tidal wave. But there is still hope. In the contemporary literary and art world, hope is a dirty word. There are too many cynics who want you to give up hope. To go on with your ordinary lives and keep consuming the mass-produced gadgets. To live in the present, and to cast aside true compassion as sentimentality. But we must not give up hope for our planet and for all peoples. And yet with hope comes responsibility and sacrifice. Each of us needs to do our part to put an end to man-made climate change. What other option do we have? Succumb to nihilism?

Our mothers teach us the most important lessons in life. To be caring, to be disciplined, to work hard and be unselfish. Through their womanhood, their willpower and resolve, we must find inspiration to save our collective mother, the planet we all inhabit. We need to speak up against the cranky old men who have a strangle hold on our politicians, the fossil fuel lobbyists, the climate change deniers, the 1% who only care about profits, and speak of “the market” as if it’s some living entity that needs to be endlessly served. It’s as Pope Francis has said, “…worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal.” This golden calf is what’s destroying our Mother Earth. We must cast down this idol and work together to build a sustainable world for our descendants to live in harmony with nature.

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Cover Art by G Scott, Design by Melissa Rothman

Letter From the Editor Issue #6

Read Whirlwind #6

Hello, and many thanks for reading Whirlwind issue #6. Instead of requiring a theme for this issue, we’ve gathered together a collection of diverse and urgent voices speaking on many different topics. However, there’s one common thread here, in that every work of writing we’ve published this time around just so happens to be poetry. This was only accidental, and yet it’s a happy mistake.

The first poem we have for you is by a stunningly talented fifteen year old girl who lives in Canada by the name of Farah Ghafoor. Her poem “buoyancy” looks at the catastrophic effects of climate change and pollution from the view of sea creatures. The next piece is by a young Jamaican woman, Gervanna Stephens, who speaks about what it means to live in a complex environment with conflicting emotions. The next two poets, Stella Pierides and Lynn White, both reside in the United Kingdom and share with us their feelings about the current migrant crisis in Europe. Then we have Glen Wilson, an Irish poet who reflects on an experience he had witnessing poverty in Paraguay.

After an extraordinary string of talent from overseas we have some impressive locals, Joe McCullough and Michelle Caporale, who give us two entertaining and intelligent manifestos on non-conformity and creativity. Then there’s San Francisco based Shizue Seigel, a past contributor from issue #5 who creates powerful images in the eyes of the downtrodden. Two Philly poets, James Feichthaler and Jennifer Schifano, have written about people on the streets. Feichthaler strikes the reader with his witty observations of a discarded slice of pizza and then examines the dichotomy of two definitions of the word bum. Schifano then moves us with her short yet powerful prose-poem about a destitute woman and her troubled past.

Another Canadian poet appears to continue the theme of poverty from our last issue, as J. J. Steinfeld ironically titles his poem “Property Values.” The piece uses humor and quirkiness in order to denote the absurdity of homelessness and the state of contemporary language. Howard Winn, an emeritus professor of English at SUNY and past contributor to issue #4, offers an ode to the great Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The poem, entitled “CITY LIGHTS,” effectively explains why the aforementioned poet and publisher has been such a vital influence on American poetry. We continue the San Francisco vibe with three haiku pieces by Frank Clayton that are beautiful poems describing the geography of the mysterious West Coast city. “Song of Yourself” is another subtle Clayton poem that meditates on Walt Whitman and asks why the grey poet chose a crypt to be buried in, among other questions.

The final two poems in Whirlwind issue #6 are by Rocky Wilson and Lamont Steptoe. Rocky’s “Tripping” is a commanding, allegorical piece set on a whale watching trip. Steptoe’s “Loose Ends” may have been written in the eighties, but it’s all the more relevant now in a world where violence, state oppression, and extremism run rampant. We conclude this fall issue with two reviews of brand new books by Prerna Bakshi and Dr. Mary Weems. Both Bakshi’s debut poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love and Dr. Weems’ play collection Blackeyed are available to purchase online and certainly worthy additions to your library. There’s also a review by Jim Cory, a contributor from our first issue, who has shared with us his thoughts on two poetry collections by Jack Veasey. As always, we are grateful to our contributors and readers for supporting this publication. We look forward to sharing with you our next issue on indigenous peoples, and are open to submissions for it until January 1st, 2016.

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A Review of Prerna Bakshi’s Burnt Rotis, With Love

This review will appear in Whirlwind Magazine issue #6 due out in mid-November.

At Whirlwind we like to support our contributors even after publication. We’re honored to be a part of an international community of diverse writers and artists focused on social justice and human progress. That being said, we’re happy to announce that the talented sociolinguist Prerna Bakshi, a poet of Indian origin currently based in Macao, is publishing a collection of poems called Burnt Rotis, With Love that will be available in December through Les Éditions du Zaporogue.

Prerna Bakshi graced page nineteen of Whirlwind Magazine Issue #5 with her moving poem “Let it Rain!” The title of this piece serves as a refrain at the end of each stanza, culminating in an effective repetition of the phrase. Bakshi laments at the state of her poverty stricken home-country, as well as her new adopted home in China. Through the eyes of this poet it’s apparent that the world is on the brink of environmental catastrophe. In “Let it Rain!” Bakshi beckons the sky to open up for “…the drought stricken land…” as she bears witness to the struggles of people with disabilities, children, and factory workers, as she listens to “…a farmer’s outcry…” and also the “distant scream” of indigenous people fighting “…against the state’s repressive forces.”

Along with the aforementioned poem, there are over a hundred pages worth of urgent and meaningful poetry in Burnt Rotis, With Love. For the book’s themes Prerna Bakshi says that she “…will explore and interrogate the narratives of Partition of India/Punjab post British colonialism, women’s identity, gender and class struggle. The poems in this collection will cover themes of violence, oppression, exploitation, abuse, struggle, survival and resistance.” The advance reader’s copy certainly attests to this, and it makes for a powerful read.

Other highlights in the book include the dramatic “Guns and Graves,” where Bakshi writes an elegy for the many innocents killed by the Indian state in its dispute with China over a relatively unheard of area called Arunachal Pradesh. It’s poems like these that stand out to the reader, especially because they shed light on topics and events that too often remain shrouded. The further one gets into Burnt Rotis, With Love the more one begins to fall in love with not only the poems in the collection, but also the invaluable footnotes that accompany some of them. After “When the Poor Woman ‘Leans In’…” Bakshi writes that the “poem is written from a critical, Global South Marxist feminist perspective, in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s corporate feminism of ‘Lean In’ and its approach to feminism and work.”

One critique of Bakshi’s work could be that she’s often very forward and unequivocal in the points of views that she displays. However, that more often than not makes her writing accessible and heightens the clarity of her poems. What’s important about Prerna Bakshi’s poetry is that it can be easily read by anyone. The messages that she delivers are vital stories about oppressed people around the world that Westerners should especially be made aware of, and it’s clear that Prerna Bakshi deserves critical praise and recognition for her brave and touching new work, Burnt Rotis, With Love.