I always look forward to seeing the cover art of jubilat’s new issues, often featuring bright colors or eye-catching images. However, their latest issue caught my eye because it doesn’t fit their usual look. Instead, the editors chose a plain black background behind their title text for this special issue that presents 108 poems by 105 writers who share what’s been on their minds since November 8, 2016. With this issue, jubilat creates something beautiful out of rubble, giving readers something to hold onto when we may feel hopeless, wordless, or disconnected.
With a large variety of voices in this issue, readers are bound to find a connection with the work presented. Some pieces boom off the page like “Testimony” by Michael Burns, originally published in his collection Night of the Grizzly (Moon City Press, 2012), which reads with the lilt of a sermon. Burns first lists the type of god he does not want, the god presented in parts of the bible, an “Abraham, let’s see if you can stick a knife / into that fat sucker of a son of yours god,” a “gay hating / women hating / any-race-but-white-hating” god. But then he lists the type of god he does want:
An old-fashioned buzzing, humming blue light
that I can hang outside on a summer night
and all my insect problems
will come flying to it
thinking they have found their Publishers Clearing House letter,
[ . . . ]
He concludes he’s “bone tired of meanness,” a sentiment we can all say “Amen” to. With this testimony, Burns fills readers with fire, igniting us into the action of rejecting hate and offering warmth with the images of the desired god.
Jim Daniels, in “Raking, Pittsburgh,” takes a different approach, writing with quiet resolve. The day after the election, he and his neighbor are unable to greet one another, unable to even meet each other’s eyes. “We are not violent men,” he insists, but seeing his neighbor, he recognizes the feeling of needing to do something, of letting out the disappointment and frustration by raking a lawn that doesn’t need to be raked. While he and his neighbor are unable to speak to each other, Daniels speaks volumes in this poem, leaving a resulting lump in my throat.
That lump stayed around for a lot of the pieces in the issue as they struck a chord again and again. At times, I felt almost overwhelmed with emotions—not just mine, but those of the writers’ as well. Kimiko Hahn in “Unidentified” repeats two lines to drive her point home over and over: “The Pima County morgue is running out of space” and “‘These people are probably not going to be identified,’ the medical examiner said.” Located near the United States-Mexican border, the morgue takes in the remains of immigrants found in the desert, many never to be identified. Hahn borrows lines from “An Arizona Morgue Grows Crowded” by James C. McKinley, Jr. (New York Times, July 28 2010), and, by combining these borrowed facts with her own words, creates a piece that is stark and heartfelt.
Despite the lumps-in-throat feeling, there is also comfort to be found in these pages. In an untitled piece, Jessica Comola reminds us how to breathe calming breaths:
smell in the flowers one/two/three/four/five/six
blow out the candles one/two/three/four/five/six
Ashley Colley in “Comfort Dog” gives comfort solid characteristics and space to take shape, and in “<3,” Ana Božičević concludes that, “This pain is how / I know / That love will win,” a good thing to keep in mind for those feeling hopeless or for those battling against hatred.
jubilat has put together a powerhouse of strong voices, packing the pages with familiar names like CAConrad, Shane McRae, Bianca Stone, Arisa White, and more, reason enough to check out this issue. But whatever the reason for picking up this special edition of jubilat, I urge readers to read it slowly. Savor each poem. Read a piece after every news article that makes your blood boil as a reminder to combat hateful gods. As a reminder of how to breathe deeply, to keep loving, to keep fighting. As a reminder that you're not alone through any of it.