To uplift and celebrate Black women’s voices, KPI presents a small experiments of radical intent series, running July-Nov 2020, called Postcards to the Future: Protest in Place, featuring work from Letters to the Future and interviews with contributors. Each monthly installment focuses on a theme: Legacy, Horror, Activism, Joy, and Future.
Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing, edited by Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin
A collection of poems, essays, elder conversations, and visual works, Letters to the Future: Black WOMEN / Radical WRITING, celebrates temporal, spatial, formal, and linguistically innovative literature. The anthology collects late-modern and contemporary work by Black women from the United States, England, Canada, and the Caribbean—work that challenges readers to participate in meaning making. Because one contextual framework for the collection is “art as a form of epistemology,” the writing in the anthology is the kind of work driven by the writer’s desire to radically present, uncovering what she knows and does not know, as well as critically addressing the future.
Erica Hunt, in her introduction to the collection, says, “The future is a slippery project. What can it hold? We asked writers to write about it, imagining the future as the present conjugated—conjoining the past, the present with some other time. . . .
One dimension that drew our curiosity was to know how this particular group of Black women writers would respond to the question of tomorrow. The Black women in this edition were writers we’d known or been introduced to who had been insistent makers of poems and prose that set up radical encounters between language, person, community and the political. We discussed these letters as we received them, marveling at the range of strategies to refract, forecast or expand the penumbra of the present into the shifting and dim lit future.”
In Dawn Lundy Martin’s introduction, she says, “It has always been difficult for me to conceptualize what we call blackness in relation to human bodies, particularly myself as an indicator of the thing I don’t quite understand. It’s a strange predicament, and a worrying one. . .
On the one hand, the claim of blackness need not be a claim. A black person in the world experiences themselves as black given the perception by others as to what black is. It is a (mis)recognition, always legible, often very slight in the adjustment of the face, a minor tick, a momentary widening of the eyes, almost imperceptible in its speechless announcement, “a black is in the room.” . .
List of contributors includes Octavia Butler, Betsy Fagin, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Robin Coste Lewis, Lillian Yvonne Bertram, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, r. erica doyle, Adjua Gargi Nzinga Greaves, Duriel E. Harris, Harryette Mullen, giovanni singleton, Evie Shockley, Khadijah Queen, Wendy S. Walters, Adrian Piper, Yona Harvey, Harmony Holiday, Tracie Morris, Claudia Rankine, Deborah Richards, Metta Sáma, Kara Walker, Renee Gladman, Tonya Foster, Julie Patton, Akilah Oliver, Simone White, M. NourbeSe Philip, Lucille Clifton and Sonia Sanchez in conversation, Wanda Coleman interview, Jayne Cortez and Sekou Siundiata with Tracie Morris, Erica Hunt, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Tisa Bryant.
Praise for Letters to the Future
Hunt and Martin treat the intersection of blackness and womanhood with deserved complexity and curiosity in this exceptional anthology, which operates like a master class in the variety and virtuosity of black women’s art.—Publisher’s Weekly
Letters to the Future somehow manages to collect the uncollectible range and effect of what it is to bear the world and lay it bare. Hunt and Martin give us an unprecedented sample of black women writing on and over the edge of what language is supposed to do. Commune and experiment, violence and care, transgression and groove sit together with hyperkinetic ease, here, where kitchen table becomes chronal engine. If you wonder (at) where we’re going, turn the page—Fred Moten
Here goes time drawn up, bent on sentences set to crook-out straight and to slant it back, to wing it back, till it’s up in front again. All that in what is gut and wit, what cup filled to flowing over into whose hands. My eyes wet with it, this unrivalled collection, my eyes dry against time as each page lit, despite some clock grinding in darkness, the tasks to be done in day, these hard correspondences hold me in their dreams and studies, their actions and shade, their medicine and shine, their and and &. Listening to names said and saying, I stay listening. What this is isn’t for me to say, to frame, but to testify that I see what of it I can and it is more than I dared ask for for not needing my asking. Reader: know that Letters to the Future is once/now/soon necessary, but was not inevitable—so, come celebrate the brilliant work that fills this vital anthology, itself a work about what these writers been working on: a future in which possibility bests foreclosure. Our future. Remember it?—Douglas Kearney
Black women poets have long been written out of histories of avant-garde American poetry, but Letters to the Future undeniably proves that they are at the forefront of contemporary English-language poetry—and the future is theirs to write. Erica Hunt, one of the original Language Poets, and Dawn Lundy Martin have edited an important and path-breaking anthology, one that puts the lie to the notion that a minority poet cannot be both formally innovative and radically political at once. The poetic future is now. And it is black, female, radically experimental, and undeniably kick-ass.—Dorothy Wang
Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin’s edited collection, Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing is conceptually rich, formally surprising, beautifully conceived and realized, intellectually challenging, and absolutely necessary. Black Women. Radical Writing. Future. These are the terms and the address that provide the coordinates for the work of the Black women writers collected in this anthology that speaks into the future and arrives right on time. The editors write, “the pursuit of transformative poetics is crucial to the reimagining of a world in which Black people thrive as free people.” The writers gathered here are engaged in radical acts of transformative creation; invested in imagining into being a livable Black future. “The future is a slippery project.” This future is a leap of faith. With these writers we are invited into good company in order to do the necessary: imagine it anyway.—Christina Sharpe