SPECIAL ISSUE: Towards Visibility

Poetry by BIPOC, Women, Individuals with Disabilities and Non-binary Voices


Guest Editorial by

Anita Nahal, Sangeeta Sharma & Candice Louisa Daquin
Candice Louisa Daquin

This special issue of Setu showcases poetry by individuals who identify themselves either as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), as women, as individuals with disabilities or as non-binary voices. Current world demographics reveal that women are 49.58%, Black people are 7.8 billion, Indigenous people are 6%, 1.3 billion individuals with disability and about 2% of the population in 27 countries identified themselves as non-binary in a 2023 survey. [1]

Obviously, statistics never paint a whole picture, and likely there are many more than these numbers who identify as such. Ultimately these groups are not a minority but a flourishing major part of society but despite this their voices have historically been marginalized. Hence our enduring efforts toward visibility.

Human nature prevents some of us from recognizing and accepting the distinctive diversity of others. As a species we have the potential of generating bias and fear in our brain synapses, consequently shifting to a “fight-or-flight”[2] mode rather quickly when encountering ‘difference’. Princeton university researchers, Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov have concluded that it takes only 1/10 of a second for us to make a judgement about someone based on optic perceptions.[3]

Sangeeta Sharma
            Keeping that in mind, in this curated issue, we present an assortment of themes that BIPOC, women, individuals with disabilities and non-binary poets across the globe are writing about. We have a wide geographical coverage as our poets are from the US, India, Bangladesh, Canada, Australia, Portugal, and Mauritius. 

The questions this issue wishes to address include: what attracts the interest of our poets and provides an impetus for them to express themselves? Are they addressing bias, injustice, violence, abuse or seeking the lost bonds of camaraderie, or lamenting over the digressing environmental richness? Do they yearn for spatial connections with cherished or disliked places or people, or are they engrossed in imaginary fascinations with non-human species or beyond in space? Or is magic their main poetic stay?

Anita Nahal

Or are they articulating their personal lives and beauties or challenges therein, prejudices, and world views towards them or others? Or are they writing poetry about love, loss, survival, family, parenthood, various “isms”, music, dance, sports, food, travel, etc.? 

Also, are these poets expressing in realism or surreal terms? What kind of semantics do they employ? In what forms do they create poetry—free verse, prose, haiku, ekphrastic, etc.?

Perhaps none of these themes or styles can be expressed in a vacuum and poetry outpourings are simply an amalgam of related or unrelated thoughts, feelings, and expressions.

This extraordinary issue of Setu is, therefore, exclusive as it’s rare to have a collection of so many minority voices in one issue…thirty in all! We have retained the variances of American, British, and other forms of English be it, to offer a smidgeon of linguistic variety and flavor. We have also preserved the different grammatical usages because we believe that poetry is a genre that allows us to experiment more with language than any other writing medium.

Although poetry should abide by most traditional language rules, how a poet chooses to use them is critical. Whether they decide to follow them or break them, they’re making a statement and conveying a message with this choice.”[4] It’s that message, loud and clear, of poetry by BIPOC, women, individuals with disabilities and non-binary voices that you will find on the pages of this issue. We humans have layered identities within us, lapping and overlapping just like in British mathematician John Venn’s Diagram, though unlike his equal circles, our circles can change shapes and sizes depending upon what is dear to us at a particular moment in time.[5] 

We thank all the contributors for their time and effort in submitting their precious creativity. Without writers, we wouldn’t have any journals or books!  

We also thank Setu, Sunil Sharma, and Anurag Sharma for their support to the theme and hope they don’t find any editorial gaffs! We did our best! It’s certainly hats off to us three, as we worked from different global time zones, effectively employing Zoom and emails to get our work done quickly and harmoniously. As three women editors for this distinctive Setu issue, each one of us is unique, and we also represent a multitude of divergences in our personal and professional styles which gelled extremely well! In the end, another deep gratitude to our contributors and to Setu!

[1] Published by Statista Research Department and 9, J. (2023) Gender Identity Worldwide by country 2021, Statista. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1269778/gender-identity-worldwide-country/

[2] In the 1920s American psychologist, Walter Cannon was the first to write describe the fight-or-flight concept.

[3] Wargo, E. (2006) How many seconds to a first impression? Association for Psychological Science - APS. Available at: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/how-many-seconds-to-a-first-impression

[4] writingjournal_xdluy8. (2023, July 30). Do poems need to follow grammatical rules? - letter review. Letter Review -. https://letterreview.com/do-poems-need-to-follow-grammatical-rules/#:~:text=Poems%20don’t%20need%20to,a%20message%20with%20this%20choice.

[5] Nahal, A. (2016) Diversity & Inclusion applied in layers (DIAL) model by dr. Anita Nahal, CDP, Society for Diversity. Available at: https://societyfordiversity.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/diversity-inclusion-applied-in-layers-dial-model-by-dr-anita-nahal-cdp/ 

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