The Monthly interviews Jamaican poet, writer and broadcaster – Yashika Graham – Part 2 – Working on the exploration of themes.

What are the key themes you interrogate in your work?

Early on, I would write about whatever hit me, but I have become more focused on the question of place over time. Location and dislocation have become important to me.

I grew up in rural Jamaica and I have been living in the capital city of Kingston for many years, so that dislocation, that separation from self, from family, from what is familiar; that is something I have been working on recently. I am also quite curious about familial relationships and so in many ways I write to process those, to make sense of origins.

Do you look at political issues?

Interestingly, through dub that is part of my orientation to poetry, shedding light on issues, so yes. Some years ago I was involved with a global project called Poets for Change, which later became Poets and Musicians for Change. We worked through poetry to amplify particular issues and positively impact the social environment.

That was more than a decade ago and I do find that I have zoomed in on the self, on individual people, on situations over time and I now relate closely to Dennis Scott’s idea of the personal being political, creating awareness and change through stories that go close.

Do you aim to universalise the issues or ideas you write about?

There have definitely been periods when I can tell that I was trying for the universal and then at Calabash one year [The Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica], Salman Rushdie said something to the effect that,

“In good writing, a story about a particular place becomes about the world and a story about the world becomes about a particular place.”

What I got from what he said was that when you write well and and with clarity, the story you think is about your little island in the middle of the sea, in my case, can become much bigger. It can become something anyone can appreciate, can see, can experience, making it more universal than you might imagine. I certainly tuned into that. It made me eager to connect by zooming in, being specific.

What about structure?

When I started writing all I wanted to do was speak, to come up from silence, to be heard. Structure has become much more important to that process over time as a tool with which to craft poems and as a way of navigating what I have to say.

To see more of Yashika Graham’s work see the following ink –

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