Here Is Where There Is: Locating Social Justice
March 3, 2019
This issue of Interim is devoted to social justice and features poet Regan Good’s essay “My Father’s Work,” a selection of poems from the manuscripts of finalists of The Test Site Poetry Series, and a review of Roberto Harrison’s important Yaviza.
Regan’s captivating portrayal of her father Paul Good’s coverage of the Civil Rights Movement in the bloody and decisive year 1964 reminds us that the photographed and televised violence that journalists witnessed and broadcast to the American public were the graphic evidence that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act in that same year. Regan’s expansive essay “My Father’s Work” borrows widely from her father Paul Good’s book The Trouble I’ve Seen: White Journalist/Black Movement which was published in 1975 by Howard University Press. A reporter for ABC News, Good begins his book with the admission that “for whatever combination of reasons, I did not know very much about race when I started 1964 as a television correspondent and Atlanta news bureau for the American Broadcasting System” (4). His reporting throughout that year—on the fight, for and against, desegregation in Atlanta, the marches in St. Augustine, Florida led by Andrew Young as he and other marchers were beaten as well as the journalists who tried to film it, the murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Goodman, and Andrew Schwerner, also known as the Freedom Summer murders, etc.—would ultimately lead Good to what he calls “invaluable on the job training on the subject of racism, Americanism, and journalism” (4).
Published 10 years after the events it describes The Trouble I’ve Seen: White Journalist/Black Movement wonders in the introduction what a book “whose time has come and gone” can hope to accomplish (4). Revisiting it now, in 2019, in a country that is going through a period of self destruction as its citizens move farther into their demographical corners, it’s clear this is a book whose time continues to be with us, evidenced by the resurgence of white supremacy, that the march in Charlottesville in 2017 put in stark relief. Regan Good’s essay “My Father’s Work,” true to the word essayer (fr. “to find”) is an account of a daughter seeking to discover her father in photographs and sound recordings from the time, seeking the reasons for the “broken hearted father” he became when he returned “from the South forever changed” (8). As her father before her, who believed a journalist was “duty bound” to cultivate detachment in order to “cover” the story without leaning one way or the other “even when the truths before him were in suck stark relief,” the narrator in “My Father’s Work” largely stands aside in this compelling essay (24). Reading “My Father’s Work” the reader is barraged with a montage of facts, which is the objective data provided in the many photos and sound recordings linked throughout the piece. In it, she and we will find both her father—and a living portrait of the continuously troubled, American, soul. In this timely exposé of the racism still with us, I found myself virtually standing alongside the nonviolent civil disobedience the African-American protesters and their supporters waged, passively accepting the violence of white mobs to convince the government to act on behalf of racial equality. In this data is a portrait of a movement for which too many fought and died to still be so far from what Martin Luther King Jr. called the “beloved community.” Though the Civil Rights act of 1964 was a step in the right direction, we are living through a time when what was ever good about America has been hijacked by an autocrat who defends racism and leads a systemized assault on “fake news,” aided by the end of objective truth embodied in the social media giant Twitter.
In all the years that I’ve been editing Interim, I’ve never been more excited to bring an issue to press, nor more convinced by the necessity of the writing published here. This past year, Interim became partners with the University of Nevada Press, where I am now series editor for The Test Site Poetry Series. We received nearly 160 submissions, which Associate Editor Andrew S. Nicholson and I culled to 11 to pass on the board members Sherwin Bitsui, Donald Revell, Sasha Steensen and Ronaldo Wilson. Kyce Bello won the $1000 prize and publication of UNP for her luminous debut collection Refugia. Sarah P. Strong’s Mouth of Earth was also chosen for publication, and will appear in 2020. We are grateful to publish poems from the manuscripts of the semi-finalists and finalists listed here:
Dusty Neu “Some Horses”
shelley feller “Dream Boat”
Michael Tod Edgerton “Yet Sensate Light”
K.M. English “WAVE SAYS"
Karen Holman “Contingencies from the Disaster Plan We Abandoned”
Matthew Moore “The Reckoning of Jeanne D’Antietam”
David Mutschlecner “Person”
Laura Wetherington “Parallel Resting Places”
Finally, whatever you do, don’t overlook the incisive review of Roberto Harrison’s important Yaviza. If you like what you read here, please think about subscribing to Interim (www.interimpoetics.org) to receive this year’s print issue, which for the second year, is an all women’s issue.