We are delighted to present this week’s selections from the Brain Mill Press 2016 Poetry Month Contest. We received many outstanding entries, from which these pieces by Shabnam Piryaei, Courtney Leblanc, and Sharon Brooks stood out. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did.
In this geography,in the haunt of the fifth, stillborn, season,women trespassed and terrorboundbury my first word.Where is my armor.I’m not convincedthe only avenue to joy is onesolitary writhe in the foammouthed dark,one fervent anchor hungering through a ribcage,one bullying nothing.Above the roof a cloudbuilds itself through variation. Every inheritance is a compass. Autumn at midnight, the forest sky is every bullet-scattered brain caught into white stuttering fire, a canvas of sustained thought. Uncertainty, too, is riddled with light. Tracks traversing a mistmouthed abyss demand suddenly your every illumination. Recognition is a short-lived currency, the hungry eye starving the heart. Discomfort, held fast, gifts gaping wealth. Draws you, like a calf, unruly and wet from the dissonant flesh. Here, and perhaps again, there is synchronous sunblaze and stormtrace. A glimpse of the orbit that comprises you.
She has been awarded the Poets & Writers Amy Award, the Transport of the Aim Poetry Prize, the Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance Grant and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Grant. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in journals and anthologies including Poets & Writers Magazine, The Awl, MUSEUM, Unsaid, Commonthought Magazine, The Florida Review, Flashquake, The Furnace Review, Mapping Me: A Landscape of Women’s Stories (Maymuna Productions) and Others Will Enter the Gates: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America (Black Lawrence Press). Her play A Time to Speak was staged at the MAD Theatre Festival in the United Kingdom. She has also written for the Global Post and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
She has written and directed three award-winning films that have screened in the U.S. at the Woodstock Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival, Indie Spirit Film Festival, Red Rock Film Festival, Miami Short Film Festival, Noor Film Festival, International Literary Film Festival, Video Art and Experimental Film Festival, The Foundry Film + Video Series, Catskill Film and Video Festival, Co-Kisser Poetry Film Festival, The Body Electric Poetry Film Festival, Liberated Words Festival, Digital Arts Entertainment Laboratory, (sub)Urban Projections, Blissfest333 and the Target Art Gallery, and internationally at the Canterbury Short Film Festival, Portobello Film Festival, Void Film Festival, Zebra Poetry Film Festival, Sadho Poetry Film Festival, Visible Verse Festival, Moscars al-Hurria Film Festival, Art Monastery Film Festival, Cologne International Film Festival, Indie Cork Film Festival, First Glance, FilmVideo International Film Festival, Festival Miden, Festival Videomedeja, KnockanStockan, the Unlike Art Gallery, Elysium Art Gallery, New Gallery London, Youyou Gallery, Jotta, Galleria Perelà and the Shorts Movie Channel.
Unsolicited Advice to My Younger Self
after Jeanann Verlee
When he breaks up with you to return to his wife and his children and his life do not tell him you understand. Tell him goodbye and walk out the door. When you begin dating his gorgeous mixed-race friend do not gloat. The first time your father calls him a nigger walk out of the room. The second time he says it walk out of the house – his racism will grow and fracture your blooming relationship. You will regret this.
When he comes back and says his marriage is over tell him congratulations. Do not date him again, do not quit school and follow him to the Caribbean. He will break you every way he can for the next seven years. Do not regret or reconsider the restraining order. You were right to get it. He did not have the right to threaten you.
Do not let your mother make you feel guilty for the divorce. She is a pro at blaming you for her own issues. Your divorce is not a reflection on her. Do not feel guilty when your relationship with your mother falls apart. She fostered it as much as you did. You do not have to like her or even love her. It is not owed.
Do not apologize for using the word fuck. Use it in any (every) poem. Read these poems to your mother. Do not flinch when she slaps you at your first public poetry reading. Pour that into a poem. Use the word fuck repeatedly.
Courtney LeBlanc believes she and her sister were born as Siamese twins, despite logic and the fact that they were born two years apart. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Connections, Welter, Plum Biscuit, Pudding Magazine, The Legendary, Germ Magazine, District Lines, Slab, Wicked Banshee, The Door is a Jar, and others.
She and he into we
what if we set aside
all of these illusions of love
the holding at arm’s length
the perception of what will be
based on what was
what if we managed our expectations
what if we stopped blaming ourselves
and stopped blaming the other for
what if we just
and consciously walk forward
with the grace we are each assigned
and loved the other
and empowered the other to love
at the highest level
because this space between us is
what if love just is, and was,
and survived on the inhale and exhale.
what if we came together
took that faith and made multiple trips around the moon
and stared straight into the sun
with eyes wide open
and just stopped judging
what we saw
stopped controlling what we want
stopped trying to own the other
every ugly, selfish, thoughtless
flaw simply because
and what if we held the other
even in those ugly moments
raising the frequency of each
heartbeat until they connect
and beat as one
what if we became one
she and he into a we.
Sharon Brooks is a writer who lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys discovering new restaurants, organic gardening, and writing about love. She recently started a blog, Not Quite We, where she will share her very funny and very sweet stories of dating in the digital age.
BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month
If “love calls us to the things of this world,” then poetry too can call us to think about challenging questions, difficult situations, and social justice, implicating and engaging the reader with the world we live in, in the hope that this engagement is a step toward wrestling with our better selves.