Still standing

Donna Miscolta

March 24, 2020

Arriving in time for this election season is a vital anthology of poems, stories, and art from Raven Chronicles that directly responds to the hatred inflamed by the racist, incompetent, narcissist currently munching “hamberders” and tweeting twaddle from the Oval Office while crises rage. I spoke to Anna Bálint, one of the editors of Take a Stand: Art Against Hate about the inspiration, or perhaps provocation, for compiling the anthology. “When Trump appeared on the scene as a candidate talking about Mexicans as rapists, it foreshadowed what was to come if he got elected,” she said. Bálint said the anthology was a way to take action against the rise in hate crimes since Trump’s election.

“We knew from the outset we wanted this book to be very inclusive,” she said. It’s an inclusiveness that defies the divisions that have been at the heart of Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and policies.

Balint; Phoebe Bosché, editor-in-chief and lifeblood of Raven Chronicles; and poet Thomas Hubbard, who has a long association with Raven as an editor and a contributor, have produced a beautifully designed book that boasts work by such heavyweights as Ilya Kaminsky, Jericho Brown, Marge Piercy, and Tess Gallagher, as well as local notables Carletta Carrington Wilson, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Shankar Narayan, Susan Rich, Claudia Castro Luna, and many others. The list of contributors also includes new and emerging writers like Catalina Cantú, high school student Brynn McCall, and once-homeless Sara Beckmann, whose affinity for words and images found expression in Bálint’s Recovery Café writing class.

Balint acknowledges that the hate didn’t begin with Trump. “If you want to understand what’s happening now, you have to understand what happened before,” she said, which is why the anthology begins with a poem by Native American writer Tanaya Winder. The poem, along with other works in the first section of the anthology, which is called “Legacies,” acknowledges the white supremacist foundations of this country — colonialism, genocide, slavery.

“From there,” as Bálint explains in her introduction to the book, “[‘Legacies’] section loosely winds its way through time to touch on crucial events and different chapters of our nation’s history up to the present.” Other sections in the book are titled “We Are Here,” “Why?,” “Evidence,” and “Resistance,” which ends in guarded hopefulness with Ellery Akers’s poem “At Any Moment, There Could Be a Swerve in Any Direction.” The poem suggests that change is incremental and cumulative, and that it depends on action.

“Art plays a role in making social change and building hope,” Bálint said. The anthology features both visual and literary art, and its cover is graced with a reproduction of part of an indigenous-themed mural created by artist Votan and painted by 50 artists on a Native American community center wall in Duluth, Minnesota.

With contributions from 117 writers and 53 artists, the anthology does what Raven Chronicles has a history of doing — fostering a spirit of community. Since 1991 and up until a few years ago, Raven Chronicles operated as a literary magazine whose purpose was to “publish and promote art and writing that embody the cultural diversity and multitude of viewpoints of writers and artists living in the Pacific Northwest and other regions.” The magazine recently converted to a small press and continues its original intent with the publication of Take a Stand.

The title is an imperative, the cover art a symbol of resistance, the works within the covers a community of voices and visions asking readers not only to bear witness to the consequences of hate, but to stand against it. Given the alternative, it’s not a big ask.

Order your copy directly from Raven Chronicles or buy local online seller.

Books in this review:
  • Take a Stand
    edited by Anna Balint, Phoebe Bosche, and Thomas Hubbard
    Raven Chronicles Press
    January 21, 2020
    368 pages
    Provided by publisher
    Buy from publisher

About the writer

Donna Miscolta is the author of the story collection Hola and Goodbye (Carolina Wren Press, 2016) and the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011). Follow her on Facebook or visit her website.

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