Thank you to all the poets who shared their work this National Poetry Month, sending their words to us, helping us to Break Poetry Open. I was drawn again & again to the voices with messages insistent & urgent, those words on the page that demanded to be read aloud. I paced my living room & kitchen, reading your words — caught in the cul-de-sacs of prose forms, the gullies of line endings. In particular, the poems that drew me back to them were the ones that challenged me. Your voices and forms were both brutally inviting and occasionally offered a stiff arm, keeping me at bay; it was this balance of vulnerability & withholding that kept me reading, re-reading, and wanting more.

—C. Kubasta, Editor, BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month 2019


“what do i know about consent anyway” by Hannah Soyer

Short List

“A composing book, 1973” by Daisy Bassen


“[mispronunciation]” by Uma Menon

Editors’ Picks

Week Five

“To: that nought in da jcemestry” by Penelope Alegria

“To Cry Out” by Cassandra Hsiao

“This Cosmic Dance” by Natasha McLachlan

what do i know about consent anyway

Contest Winner

Hannah Soyer

Hannah Soyer is a disabled creative writer and artist interested in perceptions and representations of what we consider ‘other.’ She is the creator of the This Body is Worthy project, which aims to celebrate bodies outside of mainstream societal ideals, and the founder of Freedom Words, a program to design and implement creative writing workshops specifically for students with disabilities. She has been published in Cosmopolitan, InkLit magazine, Mikrokosmos Journal, Hot Metal Bridge, Rooted in Rights, and her most recent piece, ‘Displacement,’ has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Twitter/Instagram: @soyernotsawyer

A composing book, 1973

Short-List Selection

Daisy Bassen

The book is old. The book has a yellow cover. The book was given to me by my father. My father was a teacher.

The book is simple. The book is deceptive. Deceit is valuable. Deceit is proscribed.

The sentences are short. The sentences make a song. The sentences want involution. A clause has claws.

The claws are yellow. The claws are old. The sentences are about bombs. The sentences are about immolation.

The book belonged to a girl. The girl was a student. She learned about bombs. The yellow of immolation.

The sentences are about runaways. She ran away. The girl. Clawed.

Daisy Bassen is a practicing physician and poet. She graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, The Delmarva Review, The Sow’s Ear, and Tuck Magazine as well as multiple other journals. She was a semi-finalist in the 2016 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, a finalist in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Prize, a recent winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest and was doubly nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.


Short-List Selection

Levi Cain

swear on my mama no—swear on something more simple and sacred. swear on my brother’s future mixtape, swear on pig fat in collard greens and freshly whipped shea butter, arroz con what the fuck ever—that the cracked cushion chair of my hairdresser’s closet is in fact a cathedral, packets of yaki and remy dotted with the same angels, skin the color of good brandy. the nollywood movies blaring on the thrifted television is the preacher. there is one constant truth— the half-room in waltham is a tabernacle for second generation girls who never learned how to cornrow.

a blackgurl’s bond with a hairdresser is tighter than the binding of isaac, requires more faith than you ever know how to give after years of lye being applied to your scalp, after years of being teased by whitegirls who crow that your hair looks like brillo pads that they wouldn’t let their housekeepers scour the sink with. the same whitegirls who now quiz you on coconut oil and ask you to anoint them with the wisdom of deep conditioning.

i and every other blackgurl who grew up in the suburbs are haunted by visions of hot combs and strangers putting their hands in our hair, pulling so sharply we swear we hear the echo of a whip crack.

but those ghosts have no place here, in this space that has only space enough for you, your hairdresser, and maybe her friend from haiti who you do not know the name of but who twists braids so gently it is as if she wants to be your mother.

this is an act of love, but all gods are not filled with goodness and so neither is the woman who stands with jojoba in her right hand, 84 inches of kankelon in her left, who asks why you never seem to have a boyfriend, who told you she would rather die than break bread with faggots but passes you plantains as communion, presses your forehead to her chest as madonna, calls you daughter, welcomes you with open arms to a rented room in a part of a town that would make a principal’s lip curl —this blackgurl bethlehem, this satin covered resting place, this plane of being where you are you are blackgurl, are celebration, are miracle, are nothing but holiest of holies.

Levi Cain is a queer writer from the Greater Boston Area who was born in California and raised in Connecticut. Further examples of their work can be found in Lunch Ticket, Red Queen Literary Magazine, and other publications.


Short-List Selection

Uma Menon

i try to pull out a chameleon’s tongue from inside my throat, change the color, change it all before another            [mispronunciation] leaves my colorless mouth

instead i find my mother tongue stuck inside my throat, a lump forgotten only by me & i find a desire, tucked away, to strangle her and choke myself before another            [mispronunciation] escapes without explanation

i am afraid that i have stained the english that i speak that it yearns to be bleached in cold sand

i watch my mother chug down womanhood, let it slide through the grip of her mother tongue, into the stomach of America              [& her mispronunciations]

Uma Menon is a fifteen-year-old student and writer from Winter Park, Florida. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and National Poetry Quarterly, Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, and the Cincinnati Review, among others. Her first chapbook was published in 2019 (Zoetic Press); she also received the 2019 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award in Poetry.

To: that noght in da jcemetsry

Contest Editors’ Pick

Penelope Alegria

Th city light s r beutiful 2night. Sky twinkles starligt on sidwalks with cracks that almost shape like ur sillhouette in twinkling moondust. Clay polish tatters blu on ashes of cigar wrappers flickering burnt blac n im thinkn of the time u rolled roun in somebody else’s ashes in that gravyard next to the church with the clouds rdy to snow upside down crosses.

Did u kn o th grass smells lik tequila n th boys breaths smells like lilac flickering burn t blqck sparks n my legs feel like pillow n l8ly it dpens’t feel right wrapping myself up in white bedsheets bc they dont feel wuite as electric as ur fingertips n m drunk

Im drunk im dunk m drnk n i want u nex to me w legs like pillows n breath like lilac burnt black n u rollin around in someboyd else’s ashes n i dk y u wouldnt want that eithr

Penelope Alegria has participated in Young Chicago Authors’ artistic apprenticeship, Louder Than a Bomb Squad. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in La Nueva Semana Newspaper and El Beisman. Penelope was among the top 12 poets in Chicago as a Louder Than a Bomb 2018 Indy Finalist and was awarded the Literary Award by Julian Randall. She has performed spoken word at The Metro, University of Chicago, and elsewhere.

To Cry Out

Contest Editors’ Pick

Cassandra Hsiao

yellow: the cold echo of collapse muddled muddied house of decay return to the ground that bore me grow betrayal roots below mold my fingertips bleed flag i no longer show pale yellow: crayoned sun shine shield i risk changing colors if i don’t yellow: aroma that does not lie trapped in tin pots roasted crisp red brown duck i can taste home cannot find home sell home know home remember touch of yellow: lazy tongue remarks sting firecracker never cool enough to swallow yellow: taste morning hours sunrise son rise sweet victory to open shop open bells jingle lucky cat licks its paws yellow: eyes glass over cat looks white yellow: light

Cassandra Hsiao is a rising junior at Yale University, majoring in Theater Studies and Ethnicity, Race & Migration. Her poetry, fiction, and memoirs have been recognized by Rambutan Literary, Animal, Claremont Review, Jet Fuel Review, and National YoungArts Foundation. Her plays have been selected as finalists for national playwriting competitions held by The Blank Theatre, Writopia Labs, Princeton University, Durango Arts Center, California Playwrights Project, and YouthPLAYS. Her work is currently being produced in theaters across the nation. She has also won a Gracie Award for her entertainment journalism and was recognized as a Voices fellow for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA).

Instagram/Twitter: @cassandrahsiao


This Cosmic Dance

Contest Editors’ Pick

Natasha McLachlan

Natasha McLachlan is a poet currently living in Southern California. After losing her speech in 2018 due to unforeseen circumstances, she fell in love with reading all over again, as it helped her cultivate self-care–this, she hopes, will be a cure for others in a hectic and frantic lifestyle. She was a first-generation college student, graduating from California College of the Arts with a bachelor’s degree in Writing and Literature. As a minority, she takes pride in breaking the barriers and stigma around individuals of color by simply being herself. When she is not writing, she is spending time with her family or bonding with her 9 siblings, whom she considers her best friends. Her inspiration comes from the moons and stars around her, nature being her greatest muse.