Independent poetry-focused press flipped eye publishing is releasing a new poetry anthology featuring contributions from UK-based Black poets including Inua Ellams, Yomi Sode, Dzifa Benson and Nick Makoha.
Titled Before Them, We, the anthology explores the lives of grandparents and elders before the families they went on to establish, digging deep into the narrative of their lives.
It showcases the work of 24 poets and writers who responded to the press' original call-out over the summer. Featured writers include poet and playwright Benson, Nigerian-born award-winning poet Ellams (pictured), Zimbabwean literary and sound artist Belinda Zhawi, queer non-binary Nigerian and Togolese writer and performer Michelle Tiwo and Ghanaian-British producer and writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes, who also co-founded flipped eye and has won acclaim as a children's author, poet, broadcaster and novelist.
"The result of a collaborative effort of poets of African descent to bring their personal stories in conversation with each other, the anthology is a poetic meditation on how we engage with the practice of memory," the synopsis explains. "As lockdown radically changed the way we live and perceive our family relationships, Before Them, We is a call to action to adult grandchildren, not only to preserve their family histories, but also to pass it on to future generations – much like African traditions have been doing orally for centuries."
The anthology is edited by flipped eye senior poetry editor Jacob Sam-La Rose and curated by Ruth Sutoyé. It is part of a larger multidisciplinary project, which included a photography exhibition in summer 2021 and a series of events such as long table panels, a documentary photography workshop, an oral history workshop, and a poetry film screening.
Sutoyé said: “Before Them, We is an offering to memory and preservation of African diaspora familial histories. An offering to my late grandmother who serves as the project's inspiration, the many lives she lived and shared with me. It's an ode to grief and to the life stories of our elders that were/are lesser known.
"It has been a great joy to give to this body of work through photography, but even more bringing together an incredible range of poets and storytellers of African descent who have contributed and engaged collectively in this form of family archiving. Contributing to the Black, African, diasporic canon and honouring our elders' narratives permanently was one of the larger objectives.
"One hope for readers is that they find stories they are drawn to and relate with shared from the poets, but potentially more importantly, the greater hope is that this collection inspires urgency within readers to document their grandparents and elders' life stories whilst they are still alive to tell them or to be intentional in the pursuit of documenting even if they are no longer here. Bringing this vision to life in partnership with the trusted lens and experience of Jacob Sam-La Rose and flipped eye has been wonderful.”
The anthology will be published on 27th January 2022.