Spotlight: War Diaries


According to the press release from AIDS Project Los Angeles, War Diaries is “a new collection of words and images that highlights the impact of HIV and AIDS among people of color, featuring perspectives from LGBT members of the African Diaspora.” Edited by writers Tisa Bryant and Ernest Hardy, the ninety-page softcover volume features poetry, memoir, critical essays, and photograpy and art-based photographic images that portray and preserve the many kinds of voices from the HIV and black communities in the United States.

In a foreword, George Ayala and Vallerie Wagner write that War Diaries is “a complicated syncopation of voice, pain, and triumph that is the story of AIDS.” It is through this universal quality of most of today’s AIDS creative writing that publishing projects like this one accomplish both the personal as well as the broader educational mission of AIDS organizations like AIDS Project Los Angeles. In fact this volume is another extension of APLA’s communications programs, which have involved everything from digital photography to creative writing to outdoor media campaigns.

Even though this largely literary enterprise is funded by two educational and outreach institutions (APLA and the Global Forum on MSM and HIV out of Oakland, California), it is not just a vanity press endeavor. These voices are some of the best responses to the AIDS epidemic, and remind one of the long tradition of publishing projects centered on AIDS starting with Michael Klein’s 1989 anthology of AIDS versifiers, Poets for Life: Seventy-Six Poets Respond to AIDS. What makes War Diaries an excellent companion to that earlier poetic response to the AIDS crisis is the fact that these are not exclusively poets with long publishing histories and academic credentials. It’s about poetry that also comes from the street, has been workshopped, and then presented in an attractive and readily available framework. A highly recommended addition to anyone’s library of the literary response to the AIDS dilemma.

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February 2011