How do we tell the stories that are too painful to recall?
In what language can we bring these hidden realities, often loaded with shame, to light and let the retelling hold witness to and ultimately heal our stories?
In “Saltwater Healing,” the latest book being launched next month by local independent fine press, Poinciana Paper Press, Bahamian poet Angelique V. Nixon finds the path to healing and empowerment lies in both language and image.
In eighteen snapshots, she collages photographs, drawings, and actual pieces from the Bahamian landscape—silk cotton tree cotton, woman’s tongue pods, sand and shells, dried leaves and seeds—and uses them alongside handwritten poetry to explore and understand difficult stories through the lens of the natural world.
Along with a selection of her own poems, the book finds beauty and strength in even the darkest of places—like letting the ocean’s tide wash your sorrow out to sea, “Saltwater Healing” moves the reader through to a refreshing and more inspired place.
“Through my collection, I hope readers feel inspired to tell their own stories in whatever ways that make sense to them. And I hope to encourage readers to share and speak their truth,” she says. “I am working in the tradition of Black women writers who insist upon our need to create our own stories out of what we know and what we don’t know — because so much of our histories/herstories are unknown.”
Inspired by Audre Lorde’s Zami, Angelique calls the work a “myth memoir” for its seamless combination of stories, experiences, memories, dreams and mystical elements in the narrative of poetry in the artwork, ultimately working to defy literary boundaries and create new ways of telling stories.
“I think it’s important for artists to cross and play with boundaries,” she says. “Poetry and writing generally help us to create images in our minds, and so I wanted to push myself as a word artist further into the visual realm.”
“Language is as fluid as other mediums of art, yet it is so often fixed in space,” she adds. “I love word art, mixed media, collage, recycled art, and photography. And so I found myself using a variety of objects to compliment and complicate my words and the stories I wanted to share.”
“Saltwater Healing” happened organically though a workshop and came to completion as she created an installation for last year’s Transforming Spaces art tour under the theme of “Fibre”. The powerful piece resisted any definitive literary genre, making it a perfect fit for the local independent press, Poinciana Paper Press.
“It’s really important for my book to be published by this press because I believe in small independent publishing, and I want to support local businesses as much as I can in our economy,” says Nixon. “Also for me, its an honor to be published, recognized, and supported by a local Bahamian press because my work is about home – and no matter how long I have lived away – The Bahamas is always my home.”
Specializing making Caribbean stories into limited-edition and hand-made works of art, Poinciana Paper Press recognizes that the book form is an active part of the reading experience. Founded in 2007 by Sonia Farmer, the press was a nomad entity for several years while she completed her training in book-binding, printmaking, papermaking and letterpress printing abroad in New York City and London, the U.K. In 2012, Poinciana Paper Press finally gained a home in Nassau and is presently growing into a center for book arts, letterpress and papermaking—the first of its kind in the Caribbean.
Angelique V. Nixon is a writer, scholar, teacher, community worker, and poet born and raised in The Bahamas. She earned her Ph.D. in English specializing in Caribbean literature and culture at the University of Florida in 2008. Currently, she is a professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
“Saltwater Healing” is hand bound with a letterpress-printed cover in a limited edition of one hundred copies, which will be available for purchase at the launch on February 3rd, 3 p.m. at Doongalik Studios on Village Road. Angelique will read from her collection and guests will be able to see the original panels of “Saltwater Healing” on display in the gallery space.
For more visit Poinciana Paper Press.