A Space for Writers of the World
As/Us is excited to present this issue dedicated to sacred spaces. Our intention with this issue was to acknowledge colonial violence and the love within our various threatened communities. This global call for stories and expressions of survival and resilience was answered by poets, arts and prose writers. What also makes this issue special is that this is the first issue where we used genre editors as part of the selection process. This is a time of growth and change for As/Us that we hope these changes will bring sustainability and foster a dynamic aesthetic. Each one of our genre editors tackled the task of curating in a personal and thoughtful way.
Fiction Editor Elsa Valmidiano took into consideration the theme in this way:
When interpreting what sacred spaces means, one can consider the intimate space between individuals that has been considered taboo, particularly when that space has oftentimes been threatened in the public sphere. Sacred spaces can also exist as spaces where those historically enslaved may have sought. It could also be the search for sanctuary in a region where political killings are rampant. In all of these stories, a sacred space was not a place that the characters were naturally given, but something sacred they had to struggle with, find, and fight for.
Poetry Editor Michael Wasson writes of his own approach:
The voices collected here are calls for the preciousness of space & ways forward. I didn’t want to have my own concept of sacred spaces going into the editing & curating process; instead, I opened myself up to hear an emerging conversation between the poems. Each poem I paused on & read again & again opened up new spaces that I never considered before: a dress & department store door, the question of the body itself, a slashed letter, the heeding of language amid violence, the transformation of body into spirit, & so on. I’m humbled to have listened to each word of these poems—these poems of space & sacredness.
Non-Fiction Editor Byron Aspaas explains his curation process this way:
In this collective space, the reader is merely the audience attending a show of the narrative voice. Through the lens of the artist, each paragraph is a display of art showcasing lived-experiences through a collage of images. In each piece, the author exudes empowerment of inspired movements where resilience begins with self-exploration and rumination; thus, allowing the viewers to experience the curator’s sanctuary of the page—their landscape of healing. Axéé’héé.
It is with great gratitude that I thank the genre editors for contributing their time and editorial perspectives to As/Us.
It has always been our mission to include youth voices in each issue of As/Us. In this issue we highlight the voices of teens who have participated in Barrio Writers workshops. Barrio Writers (BW) is a creative writing program founded by author Sarah Rafael García, which provides free college level writing workshops to teenagers in underserved communities and aims to empower teens through creative writing, higher education, and cultural arts. We are thrilled to be able to partner with BW to showcase this important program and their work. Leticia Urieta, the Coordinator for the Austin, TX chapter of Barrio Writers, writes:
I am familiar with the need for sacred spaces. We begin every workshop by building a community in which free expression of thought and feeling are our priorities for writers whose identities have often intersected with spaces at school, at home or at work that have attempted to silence their voices. On the last day in our workshop, we end by affirming that “our voice is our weapon,” that combats the forces that would seek to silence our voices, and therefore our power. For many of our new writers this is a revolutionary concept, but one they know deep in their bones to be necessary. I would like to iterate that I believe that not only can a strong community of writers be a sacred space of healing and development, but so to can the space of writing itself, in our minds and on the page.
Featured BW work includes Daisy Arciniega’s poem “Behind The Mask,” which explores the border space of El Paso, using repetition and play on words to break down the problematic nature of the border. While Mario Reyna’s piece, “It’s Home” reflects on the wild of our psyches, reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Cecelia Gonzalez’s work “Grito” treats her identity, the skin she lives in, as a sacred space where she feels the most at home. CJ Sound’s confessional poem “I am not” declares to the world that he will not be hemmed in or defined by labels or stereotypes that limit the multilingual, multicultural artist that he is. We sincerely thank these BW for allowing us to share their work with us and our readers.
Please enjoy the seventh issue of As/Us as we hold space and celebrate these rising voices.