Black Sunflowers Poetry Press – A Celebration of Women’s Voices on International Women’s Day 2021

Images of this year’s Black Sunflowers chapbook poets.

In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2021, Diversity Business pays tribute to a new collection of women’s poetry from Black Sunflowers Poetry Press. Published on 14th February 2021, the collection rejoices in the voices of women from around the world. Morgan Christie is one of the authors.  In the interview below, she discusses her poem when they come and other works.

Image of when they come (front); Credit to; Virginia Chihota – kumira mutariro (waiting in faith).

The intro to the new series of poems from Black Sunflowers Poetry Press begins with a call for poets from publishers Geffen Bankir and Amanda Holiday. The note reads;

‘from across the globe, poets answered. The cries of being and feeling were strange, funny, primal, otherworldly, and angry. Poems raged and fluttered, moaned, and muttered, soared and stumbled. From all the speakings, this voice was heard. Enjoy.’ (Geffen Bankir and Amanda Holiday)

Congratulations, Morgan on the publication of your poem, when they come. On first impression it fits the description of ‘otherworldly, as described in the publishers’ intro. It seems part mythical and fantastic with depictions of pterodactyls regaining life and taking over the skies. Part futuristic with references to other beings coming to save the planet after the humans have destroyed every living thing? Part historical with mentions of a people brutalised by slavery and the aftermath of an atomic bomb in Osaka. It almost defies a classification or genre.

How would you describe the poem?

It really is a sci-fi epic. when they come is a long narrative poem dealing with surrealist slants and ‘great’ beings other than ourselves. The piece was intended to mirror the transfixed state of the theme and plot, a sort of frozen acceptance, all brought about by our own actions and histories.   

An interpretation of the poem is that it is a modern fable about how history repeats itself when it comes to humankind’s capacity to self-destruct, mistreat one another and misuse the earth’s natural beauty. Would this be a plausible interpretation?

Definitely, but I’m not sure I ever visualized the piece as a fable, as that would require a defined, tangible moral. This collection doesn’t have one, there are lessons in hindsight of course, but no singularly highlighted moral. In some ways, the collection acts as a reimagined reality, and in other ways as you so eloquently pointed out, it acts as a historical evaluation of our distinctively showcased nature, and our treatment of one another as well as the world around us. In every way, it is a tragedy, an invasion involved tragedy paralleling our shortcomings, triumphs, and demise in a satirical, sometimes comedic, sort of way. 

Text from ‘when they come’

Please tell me about Black Sunflowers Poetry Press. Is it a collective? Were you part of the crowd funding process? How did you get involved in the project?

Black Sunflowers is the UK’s first crowdfunded poetry press, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the family. I learned of the press while seeking possible homes for my most recent chapbook and greatly enjoyed their write up and initiative. I knew I had to submit! I also had the opportunity to work very closely with Amanda Holiday (founder) throughout the editorial process, she was a wonder and great supporter of the work and vision for it. 

Black Sunflowers Poetry shines a light on contributions from  ‘women, especially older women and black poets.’ Were you already aware of the other women’s work in the series? Was there opportunity for interaction amongst the writers? Which other work(s) in the series have touched you?

I actually haven’t gotten my hands on my own copies, it’s still so fresh. So I haven’t had an opportunity to interact with the other poets yet, but will very soon. March 14th is the virtual launch/reading for the authors of Black Sunflowers – I’m so looking forward to sharing and hearing everyone’s work. Please join us!

Morgan Christie portrait

You have won many accolades for your writing including the 2017 Alexander Posey Chapbook Prize and the 2018 Likely Fiction Chapbook Contest. What were the publications that contributed to these awards?

Variations on a Lobster’s Tale and When Dog Speaks. The first, a collection bound by familial ties, caribbean roots, colonialism, and evaluations on race and disability, the second, a sharp and intentional lens into the realities of grief and forgiveness, without giving too much away. Sterling, another poetry chapbook, was out around the same time. Most recently my first full-length short story collection These Bodies was published, that’s been a great ride as well. 

You have achieved literary excellence with the publication of many works of prose, fiction and poetry. You have also gained a Master of Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. Who were the authors who inspired you as a child? Who are the authors who continue to inspire you today?

The list is long, but I continue to find inspiration in writers that quiet my thoughts and focus my process: Brooks, Dawes, Cisneros, Kingston, Alexie, and so many more. 

Did you write the poem when they come before or during the lockdown period? How did  lockdown challenge or enhance the creative process?

when they come was completed well before last year. I didn’t find that lockdown changed my process much at all. We were still so connected, in some ways more so, which propelled constant material and other writing necessities to keep the juices and creativity flowing. 

What creatively will you take away from the whole pandemic phenomenon? 

A similar perspective that I try to take away from all things; continue to fuel your craft at all cost. Life will throw some heavy and oddly shaped wrenches at you, 2020 seemed modelled after that reality, but in continuing to support and grow your passions one continues to grow and support themselves, and that’s one thing we always need to keep doing. 

What are you working on now? Will there be another collection of Black Sunflowers Poetry?

Maybe one day, but not in the near future! I’ve been focusing on my prose a bit more and reestablishing a space for my long form fiction, and hopefully essays as well. I’m, of course, always working on that ever elusive novel, but I hope to be finished with it in the near future. Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s been great diving into the craft!

For more information about Black Sunflowers Poetry Press contact: blacksunflowerspoetry@gmail.com

 https://www.blacksunflowerspoetry.com/

 

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