One of my favourite poems, by two-time Pulitzer-nominated American poet Lucille Clifton, begins: 

won’t you celebrate with me 

what i have shaped into 

a kind of life? 

I open with it to ask the same of you now, as after four years and sixteen issues, my tenure as FIYAH’s Poetry Editor has reached its climax. I am particularly overjoyed to say that The JOY Issue will be my last in the role, and I hope that the poems within bring you as much happiness to read them as they brought me to select them and every other poem I have read as part of the best magazine team in the genre. 

I ask you to celebrate with me because it has been such a time with FIYAH as to warrant celebration. The magazine and its team hold a special place in my heart because of the moment in which they arrived: in a tumultuous point in both the genre and the world, upon noticing the struggle that Black voices have being heard in science fiction and fantasy, they immediately chose to fill that void with their own effort and lift up the writers and poets who were doing astounding work within the genre space. I have always felt honoured not only to be a part of that team, but to have found community with the team as a creator—before FIYAH even officially existed, every member of its crew has gone out of their way to create spaces for Black creators to commune together, share triumphs, comfort each other through tough times, and generally be a family when the culture often felt hostile to us existing and speaking up within it. I value that community, and being seen as a vital part of it, most of all. 

Especially in the present moment, I am glad to have played a small part in FIYAH’s work. I truly believe that these times have taught us most of all the power of writing not simply to be a source of comfort and inspiration, but as a lens through which to witness the world as how it is or can become, and a map to finding those potentials. Poetry most of all has been quite a tool in these times, and as a writer and a reader I constantly have witnessed the value it has in giving us hope, fire, and a way forward. The poems that passes through the FIYAH slush pile are some of the most inspiring and radical I have had the good fortune to read, and now more than ever I look forward to seeing even more of those voices continue to use the power of verse to share their truth and reimagine the world we live in, within its pages and beyond. 

I can’t wait to see what B. Sharise Moore will bring to future issues as Poetry Editor, and I most of all can’t wait to read what unexpected, delightful, radical and world-shaping work will emerge in the magazine under her guidance. B’s contribution to the magazine in particular has taught me so much, as she is just as thoughtful and diligent a reader as she is an astoundingly stirring writer. 

I cannot even begin to thank Troy, DaVaun, Elle, Brent, Eboni, and the rest of the team for including me in this space and in this work. I am not being hyperbolic when I say they’re the best team ever: remarkably thoughtful, astoundingly respectful, boundlessly patient, and always willing to go the extra mile for Black creators. 2020 is already a very busy year for the FIYAH crew, and I am even more excited to see what new projects emerge under the FIYAH banner in the future. 

The experience of being on this magazine’s team will be a defining one of my career—the poetry editor of a two-time Hugo-nominated magazine catering solely to speculative fiction from Black writers, embracing and making room for work from both the African continent and the diaspora, lifting up their voices and advocating for their stories to the world, never turning anyone away because their uniquely Black experiences were too foreign or complex. FIYAH has taught me one radical thing in particular about this industry that I want to keep in mind in all my work, and I hope that it continues to ripple through the rest of the genre space as well: that when gatekeeping is rampant and many people feel locked out of the space and all it has to offer, there is radical power in simply holding the gate open, in pushing back against locks and bolts as passionately as possible in order to let more people in. 

This is not a farewell from me—FIYAH will always be a home for me, and now I join it as a reader and a fan of its work, just like you. I will still be singing the team’s praises, even more excitedly than before, and I hope to take the lessons I’ve learned there through my own future work. 

This fire will be lit in my heart forever, as I move forward to the next adventure in my career. Thank you for four awesome years. I ask you to continue to celebrate with me as FIYAH keeps moving forward into many, many more years of success.

Brandon O’Brien is a poet and writer from Trinidad and Tobago. His work has been published in Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, and New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, among others. He has also been shortlisted for the 2014 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing, and the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions. You can find him talking about poetry, his novel draft, intersectional politics, and his love of Kamen Rider on Twitter @therisingtithes or on Tumblr at therisingtithes.tumblr.com.

One Comment

    • Akua LEZLI HOPE

    • 6 months ago

    Listened to you at CoNZealand several times, what fun! Such a great, warmth radiating being you are! Wishing you the best in all your incarnations and endeavors.

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