Congratulations to the winners of our 2022 Poetry Contest! In third place we have “whisper & smoke” by henry 7. reneau, jr, a stirring poem about coyotes that dissects race relations in the U.S. between the colonizers and indigenous people:
In second place we have “American Pastoral” by John Sibley Williams, an exploration between the lines that divide the myth of America and its realities:
In First Place we have “They Buried Him In The Sand” by Ella Latham, a poetic deconstruction of America’s myth of John Henry.
Praise from Asiya Wadud for “They Buried Him In The Sand”:
The fan-folds of American history diminish the distance of the past and instead creates one, contiguous field between past, present, and foreseeable future. Seemingly ancient ghosts remain at the center of our imaginary, animating our mythology; haunting the landscapes; wending their way across the distance.
What astounds me in “They Buried Him In The Sand” is the proximity of the utterly quotidian and foreboding violence. This closeness belies the myth and formulation of a distant past and instead we are asked to contend with the ways that “ghosts graze/ the land”. These opening lines are instructions for how to enter this piece. As such, we enter with the knowledge that the ghosts have gone nowhere. Their sturdiness is uncontested. They float up, they graze and hover, but they don’t dissipate.
Throughout the piece, “S’s” nimbly slide across the page, creating a reverberation and reverence all at once: “song says” is followed by “signs says” which is followed by “song says.” Elsewhere, we have “the sun lifts/ the spirit—/ sun-summoned spirit.”
Against the backdrop of violence are moments of transportive clarity and radiance as well as reminders that “nothing sees me/ that isn’t/ being still with me.” The subterranean brutality abutting attempts at order, jostling for space and attention, though it is in the space of their prolonged tension that the poem exists. As the piece notes, “Past the gravesite/ the world gets groomed.” This poem instructs its readers to peel back, to look past the neat exterior to see what exists under the veneer of uncleaved space.