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Pika Press

In 1984 Pika Press published Moment out of Time, a book of poems by local farmer Betty Cornwell. It was followed by a series of books centered in northeast Oregon---a hiking guide and book of historical essays are still available. Pika has also published several editions of the Fishtrap Anthology, which features the work of  participamts in various events sponsored by Fishtrap, the non-profit literary organization centered in Wallowa County, Oregon.

But Kalashnikov in the Sun is something new, poems and voices from West Africa and a world as different from the Wallowas as can be imagined--but a world of troubles we should know. Portland poet Kirsten Rian is the bridge.

Kalashnikov in the Sun

Kalashnikov In The Sun: An Anthology of Sierra Leonean Poets

From editor Kirsten Rian’s Introduction:

"It is my fourth week in Sierra Leone.... It has been weeks of stories from village elders, chiefs, boy soldiers, young girls, bishops, poets, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons…people. Words exchanged around cooking fires, in mud-walled rooms, in meadows under trees, in make-shift classrooms, in zinc shacks, in hotel rooms…It has been mosquito spray, Fanta, tears, kola nuts, rats, police checkpoints, guns, dirt, heat, crowds, noise, people with missing body parts from the countless war-tactic amputations, sun on the ocean at sunset, and billows of hand-dyed fabric waving against a sky that witnessed every atrocity, loss, and brutal reverberation of 10 years of war. And in the midst of all this, there were poets, the ones represented in this book, who continued to write their stories.....

"This book is a revolt against background noise. It’s a palm held up to the face of those who refuse to believe people do horrible things to one another, and most importantly, that they can survive."

With help from the poets themselves, Kirsten Rian assembled this book across an ocean. Pika Press proudly helped her bring it to production. Three hundred copies went straight from the press to Sierra Leone; the rest are here for us to read and pass on, one voice to another, witnesses for peace and humanity, against war and cruelty.

About Kalashnikov in the Sun:

A poem from the book:

The Eglantine
Nathaniel Pearce

A perfect image, all I knew.

The season changed and she was gone.

And now I searched that past of plenty

Digging stones with painted fingers.

Sometime in dreams she tells the story

Of what the future meant to us then.

And now I search that past of plenty,

Find beneath it only shadows.

Yet I search through all the seasons

Not for what is past, but promised.

Soon to find the present hope

That was at that pure beginning.

"Last week a poet from Baghdad told me, ‘Those with guns have done what they can, and now it is up to the writers.’ In this amazing book from Sierra Leone, Kalashnikov in the Sun, we see the writers, poets, truth-tellers of that hard-hit country lead their people back to the path a nation takes forward. In this book, poetry is the generator that feeds the voltage of human life. Kirsten Rian and her poet friends have given us this powerful gift from a land long troubled by war—by rape, amputation, and death—a book that says, ‘Listen, remember, heal one another word by word.’"

Kim Stafford, author of The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft.

"These brave, outspoken poems are dispatches from the front lines of the colonial experience in Africa, and today it is especially important for us to hear these voices. One of Sierra Leone's poets called editor Kirsten Rian a ‘carrier pigeon.’ That description has resonance for all those interchanges (in anthologies and translations, and in other collaborations through words, photographs, and music) that make our world smaller. Poetry crosses boundaries between people and territories, using simple means, but with far-reaching effects. Everyone should read this courageous book."

Paul Merchant, William Stafford Archivist,

Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon

"Out of horror and anguish, rising from grief and fury and hope, come twenty-one Sierra Leonean voices. Here is a poet who sardonically reports, ‘...if guns could make us grow/ we would be strutting giants.’ Here is another who prays his people can restore the youth of their young, so those children may ‘ bread again not stone.’ These poems are almost too unbearable to be spoken, to be heard. But these Africans do speak them, and we’re grateful to the editor of this collection for bringing their searing laments within our hearing’s reach. Kalashnikov in the Sun allows us, in some small way, to bear witness to how atrocity has scarred Sierra Leone’s people and land. This anthology moves each of us—poet and reader—toward the possibility of healing."

Paulann Peterson, author of four books of poetry, most recently, Kindle, published in 2008.

"These 21 poets of Sierra Leone, each a witness to civil war, thump the chest with anger and unimaginable pain. Their work demands not pity, but our full attention. Page for page these poems collectively bring us to shuddering horror and back. They ring of hope. They appeal to our sense of justice. They redefine what it means to survive."

Peter Chilson, author of Disturbance-Loving Species: A Novella and Stories

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