Early this morning our presidential election ended. To say that I am discomforted, disturbed, afraid, and disappointed by the outcome is an understatement. I am numb. I am raw. I am tired. I am many things. But I am also inspired. For this poet, this Philadelphian, to be a member of the APIARY means more now than it ever has.
A Donald Trump presidency means this publication must continue to illuminate the voices of all people, from all walks of life, from all over this (to use Lillian Dunn's word) shimmering city. APIARY must continue to allow anyone’s work thrive on the page and the stage. In the wake of what has to be the most dangerous and divisive election in history, the necessity of sharing our city's poetry, prose, and, more generally, our very human hearts is undeniable. I am eternally indebted to our writers: thank you, thank you, thank you for your sincerity, bravery, power, and beauty.
In the months, weeks, days, and final moments of this election I returned to the concept of leadership in poety, or poetry as a form of leadership, again and again. I decided to field two questions to a group of local poets: (1) How can a poet function as a leader? (2) What is a poet’s responsibility, if any, to their community? Tim Lynch, Anne-Adele Wight, Lindo Jones, and Davon Loeb, thank you for your responses. Read (and listen) below.
Steve Burns, APIARY Magazine
From Tim Lynch
I think a poet has no responsibility to her community—or at least, I don't think being a poet means we are any more responsible to a piece of the world wider than ourselves than we are as, say, bartenders or auditors. It is a choice, and a good one, I think, to work for one's community, whether through poems that create space for the community in literature and illuminate its complexity to oneself and other less aware minds, or arguing with those for whom we care regarding the future of that place and people. And this too is how I think of a good leader, one whose beliefs lead her to a path of productive action, to listening and speaking, i.e. both giving and demanding a place in a vision of the world for the people and things we care about.
Tim has published with APIARY and elsewhere on the internet. He is a baker's assistant in NJ, where he has directed workshops for young writers through Rutgers University and LTAB-Camden.
From Anne-Adele Wight
I run a performance series, which confers a leadership role. I’m bringing people together to experience art, which bonds the audience and inspires their own creativity. When planning an event, I try for a synthesis of voices that’s never been heard in those particular circumstances.
Every artist has a different perception of what they owe their community. I feel a responsibility to support poetry events, although it’s impossible to get to all of them because the Philly poetry scene is so active. I believe we should also, as much as possible, pitch in and help when a member of the community runs into a crisis that they can’t handle alone.
All of us are responsible for seeking and preserving truth in art––for avoiding the false note, which can only weaken any artistic creation. To combine truth with craftsmanship is one of the hardest challenges, but it must be met.
Anne-Adele is the author of The Age of Greenhouses (BlazeVOX 2016)
Opera House Arterial (BlazeVOX 2013), and Sidestep Catapult (BlazeVOX 2011).
From Davon Loeb
1. How can a poet function as a leader?
I function as a poet and a leader by being an educator. Teaching middle school and college English has given me the opportunity to explore poetry beyond the literary world. It allows me to take poetry out of the collections, and outside the coffee shops, and from the journals—and make poetry an everyday study in the classroom. A poet functioning as a leader is one who turns the focus off him or herself, and leads poetry, hand in hand, to everyone else.
2. What is a poet’s responsibility, if any, to their community?
When I first started submitting poetry, it was all about my work—about where I could get my writing published, about building my audience, and how I could get my voice to carry into literary world. So in essence, my experience was isolated and self-interested. The only learning about other poets was through my MFA, at Rutgers-Camden, and when I shared publication space with other writers. That was it. Though now as an assistant poetry editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, I value the words of others as much as I value my writing. So I think it is our duty as poets to be good soil for our community because a plentiful garden is not made of just individual crops, but rather, a web of interconnected roots that grow and flourish together.
Davon Loeb earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Camden University and a B.A. in English from Montclair State University. He is an assistant poetry editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. Davon writes creative nonfiction and poetry. His work has been featured in Vagabond City Journal, Tahoma Literary Review, East Jasmine Review, Apeiron Review, Across the Margin, Harpoon Review, Connotation Press, Portland Review, and elsewhere. Davon is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Currently, he is an English teacher and is writing his first book.