Place has always been difficult in two ways. First, there are the subjective spaces we exist in, the product of the senses, what we can see and feel and is tangible. Then: the imaginary places. Often we inhabit both places at the same time, creating varied possibilities and realms as we claim our existence in each reality. Place is always changing, moving, even when our bodies remain static. And when our bodies do finally move, place moves with us. In these new places we create homes for ourselves because our survival depends on it.
David St. John in Poets on Place writes, “we all live in a world that is constantly in movement, perpetually fragmenting and reassembling itself. Those places from which we come and those to which we’ve moved provide the ground against which the figures of our lives themselves move, change, depart.”
Place, or placelessness, has historically been significant especially in Kenya. For many of us place has come to mean the duality between the organic urbanism of what we call towns and cities, and the boundless horizons of gicagi, the place for end-of-year visits and funerals. In its first issue, drr aims to stretch this idea of place further. What is place among writers from Kondele, Kibos, Mazeras, Pango, Kapsabet, Iten, Marsabit, etc. What does it mean to move from and between the Laini Saba we know of, to the Laini Saba of another town, another place, to move (as drr has) from one (unnamed) street of K south to another one near the river? To move from the first floor of a flat to the seventh floor (mahali maji haifiki but the view is great). Who — our shared past and recent histories and class are a central idea here — is allowed the freedom to imagine Place? Here the risk is rendering place as the limited idea of geography, place as very material, place as something we can touch. But we are interested in the transient. In ecosystems, ersatz cities, like the Dandora dumpsite, place as happenstance, these places we carry with us, places we are desperate to forget/remember, places that exist regardless of our acknowledging them, place, and this is more probable, as a luxury most of us have not been allowed to imagine. This is not reclaiming — here ideas of ownership come to mind — that place; it is acknowledging its existence, it is a start. Where is your beginning, your intermission, your destination?
There are no assumptions about place. It is that Big Place. Or no place at all. Whatever possibilities exist they belong to you. Only you.
David St. John: Often, the summoning of place is an almost incantatory act against loss. How do the places we inhabit deprive or enrich us? How long do we sink our anchors in the respective places we call home? What do we leave behind when we lift anchor? What do we carry with us from the spaces we have left?
drr is asking for your work along this amorphous idea of place. We are interested in work ranging from poetry to (non)fiction between 3500 – 5000 words. We’ll accept 3-5 poems maximum of 40 lines each. Flash fiction pieces should be between 500 – 1000 words. We also welcome experimental forms (mathogothanio) and other medium including interviews and conversations, maps, photography, illustrations, video and audio.
Whatever ideas and experiments you have around place, in any form/genre, we are willing to work with you. Again, for the first time.
drr is in its founding stages with no financial backing and at the moment we can only offer a token payment of $30 for each piece we publish online and/or on print and a complimentary contributor’s copy of the journal. We look forward to working together in bringing forth and interrogating all the places that make us who we are. Please send your submissions to email@example.com with your name and title of your piece as the subject line. The deadline for submission is October 1st, 2019.
Series Editor: bethuel muthee
bethuel muthee is a Kenyan poet living in Nairobi. He’s a member of Naijographia.
Frankline Sunday is a journalist based in Nairobi. His work has appeared in several outlets including the Guardian UK, Mail and Guardian SA, New African, Economist, Daily Nation and Standard. He is the 2016 David Astor Fellow.
Clifton Gachagua has published a volume of poetry, Madman at Kilifi, and appears in a chapbook box set, Seven New Generation African Poets (University of Nebraska Press). His work appears in Africa 39, Manchester Review, Saraba, Jalada, Kwani?, Poetry Foundation, The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories, Passages (PEN America), AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers, Sunspot Jungle, Enkare, among others. Clifton also writes for TV and film.