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Woven with Brown Thread

Woven with Brown Thread - Upile Chisala

Woven with Brown Thread


Woven with Brown Thread


This anthology is the result of deep heart work. Seeing Woven with Brown Thread come alive is one of my greatest dreams realized. When I started the Khala Series writing mentorship program my hope was to sit in a room with other poets and work through our work. In 2019, every other Saturday in Johannesburg for weeks Khala Series happened.


We met, we laughed, we held each other, we cried, and we occasionally wrote. It was such a filling experience to be among the words and those who live to navigate them. With 2020, came the pandemic and lockdown and Khala, like other things in the world, came to a complete stop. Navigating sadness, desperation and uncertainty reminded me of how poetry is necessary. Poetry and being in community with other poets has always given me the space to breathe, consider and to simply exist. In 2021, I decided that Khala Series needed to continue if even virtually, so the 100 Poem Project

was born. The Centre for the Less Good Idea was happy to support this project as it revels in work that helps to celebrate artists in all stages of their lives and practices. Through social media I issued a call to black women and nonbinary persons to submit poems dear to them. A flood of applications came from all over and I was both overwhelmed and overjoyed. I had worried that I would not receive any applications and by some great fate 500 people applied. 25 Poets were chosen to be in this anthology and from their bios you will learn how these unique previously unpublished poets come from different countries, have different professions and religions, backgrounds, and styles; They were all chosen for their magic. There was no prompt for the applicants and no themes. Poems came as they were and somehow managed to fit together neatly.


The poems have been housed in five chapters. The first chapter 'Ritual' is a celebration of everyday practices and what we do to get by and get through. Facing a pandemic, practices that bring us back to the center are important now more than ever. From a poem about plantain to a poem about prayer, poems in this chapter manage to find the majesty in the mundane. The next chapter 'Inheritance' deals with navigating things of the

blood. There are habits and features we may inherit and there are traditions we follow and those we break. Dealing with history, memory and heritage seems an essential part of all journeys to the self. Somehow looking backwards every so often helps us look forward more confidently and with better understanding.


The Chichewa word 'khala' means 'to be' or 'to sit' or 'to exist'. In this book's third chapter, 'Being', live the poems that celebrate existence. Here are the poems around body, skin and names and life on the margins. The poets in this series grapple with what it means to exist as themselves, sometimes in love with all that is them and sometimes not. The last two chapters tackle deep hurt and deep love. Poems around loss, danger and the pain experienced at the hand of governments exist in the chapter 'Wound'. The failing of systems to protect those who live in the margins is central to this

chapter. The collection's last chapter 'Tender' gathers poems that speak to joy and love as a final note to the reader that these two things are possible. 'Tender' is filled with love poems. Love poems for ourselves. Love poems for others. Love poems for nature. The tender act is opening your heart to joy.


This book is filled with poems for the journey and all your new favourite poets. Through Zoom calls and Google Doc forms and all the conveniences of the internet this book came to be. This book, like the lives of those who have contributed to it, has been woven together with brown thread.

May we all remember the kind thread that ties us to each other. May the poems do their work.

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Woven with Brown Thread


This anthology is the result of deep heart work. Seeing Woven with Brown Thread come alive is one of my greatest dreams realized. When I started the Khala Series writing mentorship program my hope was to sit in a room with other poets and work through our work. In 2019, every other Saturday in Johannesburg for weeks Khala Series happened.


We met, we laughed, we held each other, we cried, and we occasionally wrote. It was such a filling experience to be among the words and those who live to navigate them. With 2020, came the pandemic and lockdown and Khala, like other things in the world, came to a complete stop. Navigating sadness, desperation and uncertainty reminded me of how poetry is necessary. Poetry and being in community with other poets has always given me the space to breathe, consider and to simply exist. In 2021, I decided that Khala Series needed to continue if even virtually, so the 100 Poem Project

was born. The Centre for the Less Good Idea was happy to support this project as it revels in work that helps to celebrate artists in all stages of their lives and practices. Through social media I issued a call to black women and nonbinary persons to submit poems dear to them. A flood of applications came from all over and I was both overwhelmed and overjoyed. I had worried that I would not receive any applications and by some great fate 500 people applied. 25 Poets were chosen to be in this anthology and from their bios you will learn how these unique previously unpublished poets come from different countries, have different professions and religions, backgrounds, and styles; They were all chosen for their magic. There was no prompt for the applicants and no themes. Poems came as they were and somehow managed to fit together neatly.


The poems have been housed in five chapters. The first chapter 'Ritual' is a celebration of everyday practices and what we do to get by and get through. Facing a pandemic, practices that bring us back to the center are important now more than ever. From a poem about plantain to a poem about prayer, poems in this chapter manage to find the majesty in the mundane. The next chapter 'Inheritance' deals with navigating things of the

blood. There are habits and features we may inherit and there are traditions we follow and those we break. Dealing with history, memory and heritage seems an essential part of all journeys to the self. Somehow looking backwards every so often helps us look forward more confidently and with better understanding.


The Chichewa word 'khala' means 'to be' or 'to sit' or 'to exist'. In this book's third chapter, 'Being', live the poems that celebrate existence. Here are the poems around body, skin and names and life on the margins. The poets in this series grapple with what it means to exist as themselves, sometimes in love with all that is them and sometimes not. The last two chapters tackle deep hurt and deep love. Poems around loss, danger and the pain experienced at the hand of governments exist in the chapter 'Wound'. The failing of systems to protect those who live in the margins is central to this

chapter. The collection's last chapter 'Tender' gathers poems that speak to joy and love as a final note to the reader that these two things are possible. 'Tender' is filled with love poems. Love poems for ourselves. Love poems for others. Love poems for nature. The tender act is opening your heart to joy.


This book is filled with poems for the journey and all your new favourite poets. Through Zoom calls and Google Doc forms and all the conveniences of the internet this book came to be. This book, like the lives of those who have contributed to it, has been woven together with brown thread.

May we all remember the kind thread that ties us to each other. May the poems do their work.

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