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Recommended Reading: Student Neal Goturi Takes a Look at Popular Cherry Castle Anthology Where We Stand.

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As the popular anthology Where We Stand, Poems of Black Resilience is available for sale again, we share student Neal Goturi’s review of a reading held this summer to promote the first printing of the anthology. Neal is a sophomore at River Hill High School and he has recently begun serving as a Bauder Youth Advisor on the board of the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society.


“I can not praise and recommend
Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience enough.”

Last summer, I went to the reading of the poetry anthology, Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience, in the Lucille Clifton Reading Room of Busboys and Poets, the popular restaurant in Downtown Columbia that has a performance space on the second floor. It was the first reading I had ever attended; I was excited to take a break from the more conventional avenues of consuming literature and branch out.

Where We Stand has its roots in a group of socially conscious poets and artists coming together to process the outcomes of the 2016 election and the impending doom of America’s ethos. By the end of production, one understood that editors Enzo Sirloin, Melanie Henderson, and Truth Thomas have put together a must-read collection . It features nearly 30 authors, and a number of poems from each. Powerful photographs partition the book into four parts: Watch for Black Lives, The District Line, The Breathing Fence, and Black Joy Matters.

The evening’s first reader was Joseph Ross, opening with his lines from the anthology:

There is an essential difference
between wood and flame.

It is a gap wide enough
for the Pledge of Allegiance

to walk through laughing.
Remember to not let the base
burn so the cross can stand
for as long as needed…

(“Cross, Hood, Noose An American History Lesson”, Ross, Where We Stand, 16)

[In the following clip, Ross reads his poem, “If Mamie Till was the Mother of God,” at the Busboys & Poets event. The powerful poem, not featured in the anthology, won the Enoch Pratt Free Library / Little Patuxent Review Poetry Contest in 2012.]

His poetry commanded attention and set the tone for the night. As the night went on, the speakers read through selected poems — the air kept quiet and was foreboding. Each story told by verse was so heavy that I felt like I needed to take a moment to process it — a break from the cacophony of injustice presented. The person sitting next to me agreed.

Later, as I was walking out, I realized the irony of the situation. We desired something inaccessible to the artists who had just presented: a break. Be it from tragic stories, blind angels, or clipped wings. After only a glimpse of the potency of American venom, the recess from reality requested is out of sight to those most inundated. That is something so foul that no gilded sentiment or sentence can do it justice; it lies beyond a formation of words.

I’ve recently become more aware of my privilege and the privilege present in my community. Columbia is always serene on summer evenings. It is a sheltered and affluent suburban enclave. This lends itself to the vast majority of residents enjoying a level of cognitive dissonance to the obstacles myriads of Americans face. The poets who performed on July 8th brought black experiences into the spotlight and celebrated them; they shortened the empathetic gap between.

I can not praise and recommend Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience enough. It is raw, essential, and uniquely comforting. While I was writing this post, the anthology quickly sold out online. If you looked, you could find the odd copy at places like Busboys and Poets. Its publisher, Cherry Castle Publishing has just issued a second printing of the anthology. To order a copy, visit their website cherrycastlepublishing.com

After the reading, poets celebrated with a group selfie.

Where We Stand, Poems of Black Resilience quickly sold out of its first printing. As of November 25, this popular and important anthology is available again. Visit CherryCastlePublishing.com to get yourself and everyone you know copies.


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