“There are years that ask questions and years that answer”

Plantain Papers is an ode to the “plantain fryers, eaters and appreciators around the world”. Featuring poets and artists from the Caribbean and African diaspora, this is a magazine less interested in plantain as a fruit than as a conduit to the people who love it. For Plantain Papers, the way a person eats can be interesting and sometimes moving because it tells us something intimate about the way she lives. One of my favourite pieces in the magazine, by Yesha Townsend, weaves a shopping list for taquitos into a poem about lunch, and lockdown, and playing tamagotchi:

there’s a deep dive into something long past at least once a day
– yoyo, pokémon, rubik’s cube, that tamagotchi you got two
christmases ago. The time varies, but it’s always sweet.

… you leave and remember the sun. something about vitamin D and
island people faring poorly in London.

Co-editor Tamika Abaka-Wood quotes the author Zora Neale Hurston in her opening letter: “there are years that ask questions and years that answer”. The theme for this issue is ‘still’, and contributors reflect on what can be learned from the quietness of the pandemic, as well as its trauma. Another poem, by Kanika Laing, figures moments of stillness as precious:

How the rain sounds against your window
When you are wrapped within your sheets
Your laughter

The issue draws on the multiplicity of the word ‘still’: the way it can refer to a period of quietening; or emotional relief; or sameness; or an ordinary static photograph. One beautiful spread features a photograph by Erika Yarboi of two hands poised on the point of touch, a play on Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. The hands are long-nailed, unmistakably female, and one is gloriously sticky.

Another photograph, by Genevieve Leighton-Armah, is of two pairs of feet tucked up in a double bed. One pair belongs to an older woman, one to a younger, and both women have carefully painted their toenails. The feet are touching, and you can tell instinctively this is a portrait of mother and daughter. It is an unexpectedly tender tribute to lockdown life.


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