Poetry Month Spotlight: Esteban Colon

Poetry Month Spotlight

Esteban Colon

Stray

 

Twins of droning tv’s
outmatched fans tease poor
forms too liquid to move

confused octopus kids,
Gordian on the couch
mother in the love seat

sixty-fie pound lap dog
shedding fur, trapped under
the heavy of August

like a dream of daytime
waking hours hazy
as drunken memories

till sonic boom jaws snap
over stray cat yowling
a living room grenade

echo chamber screaming
as beloved tail wags
disemboweled the stranger

Seventeen Seconds

 

One one thousand
two one thousand
three
…………seconds of silence
and
words I assumed were
eyeblink easy
suddenly feel flimsy,
a sheet of paper in a puddle,
reality
taking one shot for every second
four one thousand
five one thousand
six
steps before catching the walls
anchor
for the spinning room
before crashing
hitting
the floor so hard, nose crumples
leaking
patterns,
…………illustrations of unvoiced nightmares
before anyone moves
to help him up
seven one thousand,
and I consider an awkward laugh
an attempt to rephrase
to
laugh off the weight
multiplying with each
eight one thousand
nine one thousand
ten one thousand,
and she looks away

The weight
of eleven one thousand
too much for my shoulders,
a heart
shedding shards
like a dying flower
till
…………at seventeen seconds
I’m walking away
from a pile of scarlet petals
a fragile
puddle on the floor

Why I Want To Be a Pastry

 

Croissants don’t break bones,
don’t
……….entertain thoughts of holding down another croissant
beating it
……….into submission
……….……….grunting violation
………………..……….……….in blood.

Donuts don’t break bones,
don’t
……….Segregate by sprinkles, chocolate coverings, vanilla filling
……….hang others till their bodies stop twitching
have never
……….Whipped other donuts
……….……….till tears filled the night sky

Bagels don’t break bones
don’t
……….weep disappointment as they beat their children
have never
……….disowned gay bagels
……….……….hurling them into the streets.

No Pulled Punches

 

Molasses legs taught my fingers to fist,
words
too flimsy a shield
for the pipes and knives
that stitched my neighborhood together.

About the Poet

Esteban Colon is a poet from the Chicagoland area. Raised in the south burbs, he authored Things I Learned the Hard Way, cohosted a popular poetry venue, and performed at many stages. His work found print in a variety of journals and anthologies as well as chapbooks. He moved to Southern Wisconsin where he was honored to become the 2018-2019 poet Laureate of Kenosha. He continues to write, publish, and perform, always finding his greatest joys when he can collaborate with others.

National Poetry Month
National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! For poets and poetry lovers—and perhaps for those who love poets—this is a special time. At Brain Mill Press, we like to celebrate all month long by sharing featured poets. This year, we’re reprising award-winning poets from prior years’ contest, introducing new poets we admire, and inviting submissions to a joint chapbook contest with the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets to celebrate the work of a Wisconsin poet with publication.

Top photo by Conor Brown on Unsplash

Poetry Month Reprise: Brittany Adames

Poetry Month Reprise

Brittany Adames
National Poetry Month

Reprise

Brittany Adames was a Brain Mill Press National Poetry Month Contest winner in 2018 with her poem “A TANK WITHOUT GASOLINE.” Read it here.

Adames’s shared this artist statement about her work:

I continue to write poetry because I continue to witness what’s lingering.

For her reprise, Brittany Adames offers the poem below, entitled “ALTERNATE UNIVERSE IN WHICH I AM PAMELA.”

About the Poet

Brittany Adames is a Dominican-American writer. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and featured in The Brooklyn Rail, Hobart Pulp, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. She has an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College.

National Poetry Month
National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! For poets and poetry lovers—and perhaps for those who love poets—this is a special time. At Brain Mill Press, we like to celebrate all month long by sharing featured poets. This year, we’re reprising award-winning poets from prior years’ contest, introducing new poets we admire, and inviting submissions to a joint chapbook contest with the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets to celebrate the work of a Wisconsin poet with publication.

Top photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Poetry Month Spotlight: Angela Williamson Emmert

Poetry Month Spotlight

Angela Williamson Emmert

When the Orchard Is Gone

 

I will grow a forest: weedy
box elders, fast-spreading pine.

I will cast the spores of mushrooms,
seed them throughout, those cool-

season eaters of dirt
and flesh. Perhaps I’ll live

long enough to harvest, but if
I succumb to hunger, leave my body

in the grass. The heart of the world flutters
like a bird in its failings.

To the thing that comes next,
I would contribute.

Faced with the death of trees
I’m forced to believe in death

 

believe in the way I believe that I once
caught a ten-dollar ride in a van, fitted

with benches made of lumber, traveled
the highway to Darjeeling (beltless),

how when we stopped to let a young
woman puke, I almost collapsed

beneath the crush of white Himalayas,
a white moon peaking over jagged

edges setting the world on tilt. Mountains
crumble down into sand someone might

dig from a hill, like we did as kids,
unearthing pockets of rotting granite

that crumbled like sugar-cookies. I’ve peered
inside the metropolis of a fallen sequoia

and photographed the wild crossings
that once were her guts and whispered

greetings to her babies, and all of this
I have done and never measured death.

But show me a dying oak, my uncle’s oak,
framing his view of a lake, going gray

with wilt and an entire evening of news
without one word of a species

passing, and now I know death’s measure,
know to be afraid of trees dropping in forests

or in yards, hybrid poplars rotting at the base,
branches bleaching, giant ash, the skin

hidden by bark burrowed under by beetles.
Or something simpler: my grandmother

clipped a willow branch in her twenties,
rooted it in her backyard. Grandchildren

strictly forbidden from swinging
in its branches limited themselves to only one go.

She outlived it. They took out the stump
when she moved into town, to a small house,

one without stairs. Nothing to carry us
upwards, to renewal, or some other quiet end.


*This poem previously appeared in Lakeshore Review 22 (Fall 2022).

What To Make of the Bodies

 

The orchard I planted for my father’s memorial
languishes. Fungus infects

the spongy trunks. They slip bark
in rings, sloughing it off like tokens that have lost

their meaning, like dry skin, like ash. I’d like to dig
him up, my father, turn his time-torn

body loose, let the wind
flake away the graying hairs, the strands of red

that still clung in his beard. I would grind
his bones with the gravel of my driveway to mingle

with the ribs of a redbelly snake and the feathers
of the wren I wrestled from the cat.

She lies beneath the winter-burned boughs
of a pine greening at the tips, feeding

what creatures come by her. My dying
orchard. I dream of your blooming,

of petals felled by rain, caught
in grass, dissolving with the dew.

Lament

 

No butterflies came to the garden
this year. I could hardly stand
to look at the milkweed,

prolific but empty. My flowers
withered unvisited.
Not a single monarch. No yellow

swallowtails or blues, hardly
even a sulphur or a cabbage
white. All summer the ox-eyed

daisies naturalized, waved
their yellow masses, mixed
with the goldenrod in the perimeters

of our yard, but nothing fluttered
among them. It’s enough
to make me fold this poem

into the shape of a butterfly to launch
like a paper plane over the flower
bank if only to fill

the loneliness. Maybe this is the future:
we’ll decorate our yards with the memories
of flowers, of bees

and dragonflies and all manner
of flying or crawling bugs. A million crafters
employed to shape

them from tin, wings
attached with springs so their flapping might
comfort us, so many motherless

monkeys wrapped around our water
bottles, or chicks huddled
under lamps, a widower lunching with a photo

of his wife, or the insomniac
who plays a recording of leaves
turning, of waves

lapping stone, of birds
breaking through morning. Until we
forget. The air

this summer has been so still
only a poem can float there. It rides
the red hum of the sun’s

descending and crests a hill
out of sight. But listen.
Do you hear how it whistles?

How it answers the sky’s
gloaming blue?

Artist Statement

My orchard got sick, and I’d never felt so betrayed. I spent the summer treating the fungus, repairing rabbit and mower damage, and enriching the soil. We live in a strange time, though, when so much of what we once called “natural” no longer is, and in these poems, my orchard’s struggle with an unnaturally humid summer is not a synecdoche for the struggling world but is the world’s struggle. My feeling of betrayal, though, was projection. It is we who have betrayed. So many small deaths. Even if they go unnoticed, we are fools to think they do not change us. Through my work, I seek language for that change. Now a year has passed. My orchard may never be what it once was, but it persists. As do I.

Angela Williamson Emmert lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband and sons.

National Poetry Month
National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! For poets and poetry lovers—and perhaps for those who love poets—this is a special time. At Brain Mill Press, we like to celebrate all month long by sharing featured poets. This year, we’re reprising award-winning poets from prior years’ contest, introducing new poets we admire, and inviting submissions to a joint chapbook contest with the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets to celebrate the work of a Wisconsin poet with publication.

Top photo by feey on Unsplash

National Poetry Month Contest Winners 2023

National Poetry Month Contest Winner 2023

Sujash Purna

Picking a poem from so many poems shared during National Poetry Month is always so difficult—how to set something experimental and free-versed against a tight form and judge one “better” when they reach for such different things?

While selecting a group of poems was no easier this year, the pleasures of reading were multiplied by being able to engage with a group of poems from each poet: to trace their voices through several poems, see how the notion of cycle translated from one to the next, how a subject could be visited across forms (sometimes turned inside out) or explored in concentric layers of complexity. Thank you for sharing your work—you turned me inside out, made me look again and again at what you were pointing to: be it a hummingbird, or a spare portrait in words, or the tangled mythologies of culture complicated by list forms.

For the winning selection, Sujash Purna’s poems “You Poor” begin with bludgeon lines, tender lines, sequestered on a page of negative space. Of the four poems, the variety in forms move from that spareness to a discursive voice-driven plea where the line endings deliver with a power that insists on being read aloud. The repetition of “your” and the breaking of “your” fragment not only the imperative to speak, but the self who speaks. In the final poem, the strategies of the first three coalesce: spareness, space, repetition, and concrete detail to connect the earlier poems in the cycle to each other, and to connect more fully to the reader.

Other noteworthy poets sharing their poem groupings include:

Ellie Lamothe’s “A Funeral in March,” “If We’re Honest,” and “Litany”

J.F. Merifield’s “Portraits”

Devon Balwit’s “Notes on Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers [II-V]”​

—C. Kubasta, Editor, BMP Voices Poetry Month

Winner

 

“You Poor” Cycle by Sujash Purna

1.

.
.
.
.
I’m never going to see my mom again

…………………………………………………………………………..I am too poor to do that

2.

.
People in Missouri
don’t know who
I am anymore
.
.
.
.
People in Dhaka
don’t know who
I am anymore
.
.
People where I
am now
.
don’t
.
want to know

There Must Be Something Wrong

.
Visually nothing is aesthetic
It’s the lens they put on you
And tell you that this is how
You should look at this thing
That will neither make you
Happy nor circumvent your
Danger unless you tell your
-self yourself yourself your
Self to believe in the story
That they built based on
Your struggles, based on
Your sacrifices, based on
Your absences from your
Loved ones. Even the
Word love has become
Corrupt. It’s how they
Want you to feel. Not
How you feel. Because
If you feel that way
There must be something
Wrong. There must be
Something wrong. There
Must be something wrong.

Inductive Reasoning for a Family

.
glycerine drops

.

psoriasis-looking spots

.

your hair

a harsh sun

this master’s degree minimum wage job

that phd holder adjunct gig

two kids

two parents

their

health care

who cares?

you do

yours?

who cares?

you’re on your own now

you’re on your own now

you’re on your own now

You Poor III

.
I don’t write about flowers and lovers anymore

I write about shit that went out of control

Not the white people Babylon

Or American Hustle kind of coke-infused

Out of control

.

I write about being in a place

Where nobody wants you

Paycheck-to-paycheck immigrant

Renewal-to-renewal immigrant

Paying-double-the-tax immigrant

Taking-half-the-benefits

Taking nothing because

I should be already

Thankful

Immigrant

Sujash Purna is a Bangladeshi poet and photographer based in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the author of Epidemic of Nostalgia‘ (Finishing Line Press), In Love with the Broken (Bottlecap Press), and Azans for the Infidel (Mouthfeel Press). His poetry has appeared in South Carolina Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, Kansas City Voices, Poetry Salzburg Review, Gutter, Stonecoast Review, and others. His photography can be found on Instagram @poeticnomadic.

Short List

 

“A Funeral in March,” “If We’re Honest,” and “Litany” by Ellie Lamothe

A Funeral in March

.
I belong to the cold bones of winter.
Bare-skinned, barren, and remembering

the sound of your laugh like a funeral bell.
The sound of the boreal wind

whispering through the pines,
a wisdom for our children and their children,

and the ones they will love
without knowing why.

The gentle grief of living one evening to the next,
exchanging one ending for another.

I want to leave my brittle body behind,
become lost in the brume,

a spectre collecting light
and sadnesses leftover from years before.

Still, I am willing to endure.
I am willing to endure.

If We’re Honest

.
it’s a miracle that we come together at all,
that romance
is ever more than a formality
between two unreliable narrators of their own suffering.

We became accustomed to the taste of saltwater,
learned to perform that ritual
of kind pittances,
found a peculiar lightness

in clinging to the soft things.
My body, clumsy and pitted,
lingering in the cold sweat of your body.
Several vital organs missing

between the two of us.
You tell me your sadnesses in a voice
so sweet and perplexing,
I almost forget hunger

and the way it blooms
violet like a bruise along my jaw.
I almost forget to cherish
the way your throat opens up when you laugh.

Now everything we do is imaginary.
And I fear our love, too,
is just in our heads.
So I touch you to make it real,

and slowly,
to untangle the solemn etymology of desire,
and the terrible things
we endure out of loneliness

The terrible things we do to the people
we are trying to love.
You peel my clothes off in the dark room
and I let you.

But touching me becomes an unnatural thing
with our bones bleached.
The ceremonial undoing,
by some despondent architect of quiet endings

Litany

.
I am sitting cross legged on a pier,
bargaining with the stillness of the morning.
Having no one to mourn
my body as it acquiesces,
surrenders memory (even the dear ones),
becomes the fog hanging low over the lake.
I am thinking about things too bleak
for the morning
and the delicate charms of its first light.
The temporality of bliss
and the reasons I have been unkind.
I am learning there is nothing constant
but the wintering
and warming of desires,
how even ordinary wounds can fester.
I am learning about curiosity
and too, about hunger,
from the ruby-throated hummingbird
and her relentless need to move toward something.
A tender certainty.
The medicinal commonalities
between sugar water and song.
You don’t sing for me
and I begin to keep some of my sadnesses to myself.
Even then, I don’t pretend to love silence
the way you do.
So this is how it goes.
We suffer,
and we owe,
and we rejoice
in the delicate light of dawn,
in the surrendered memory,
in the hummingbird and her hunger.
And each day
we sit at the mouth of the lake
and recite our own litany of yearning.

Jareen Imam author photo

Ellie Lamothe is a poet living in K’jipuktuk (Halifax, NS) with her cat Arabella. She’s passionate about feminism, addressing gender-based violence, and engaging in community care through her role at a local women’s shelter. She loves going for walks with an iced matcha latte, being cozy, listening to Celtic music while she writes, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Her work has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist), Kissing Dynamite, Yes Poetry, and Ghost City Review, among others. You can follow her on Instagram @ellielamothe.

Short List

 

“Portraits” by J. F. Merifield

Portrait as Lost Calf

.
the barbed wire and dirt road sing
together of dust, of dry grass
.
tanning in the wind
on sun-swept
hills that roll away
.
from an unmulched garden
left to wild,
its nature becoming its own

Portrait as Hunger

.
the wind holds the hawk
still
above the ditch

no field mouse
nosing out just yet

the hunt afoot
all the same

a patient moment
an urge held
aloft

Portrait as Landscape Painting Titled: Night Flying Over Winter Mountains

.
the moon full
illumines

marbled mountains
snow-pearled

and forest black.

squiggled lines
where light and dark

touch
splinter
wrinkle
ripple

thirty-one thousand feet below.

Portrait as Impressionist Painting of the Seine River Bank Titled: Communique

.
my mind is a weighted hook
plunging through waves
of quells and quivers,
each distant image a one-piece
unshouldered one side at a time,
down to the hips for now,

factually speaking boats float
and “the sun always seems to be
your friend not mine,”
Guillemots sings,
so I count the waves
rolling on to shore,

warily we have spoken
of where the two meet,
saturating one another, these moments
fit us, as in exposing to each we see
there is thread tethered,
hooked at both ends.

J.F. Merifield, a poet living in northwest Montana with a Poetry M.F.A. from George Mason University, has poems published by Wild Roof Journal, High Shelf Press, Sheepshead Review, Cathexis Northwest Press, La Picciolette Barca, Neuro Logical, Verse, and Rust & Moth, among others.

Short List

 

“Notes on Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers [II-V]” by Devon Balwit

Notes on Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers [II]

.
1. What is it like to walk in the arrogance of one’s own beauty?

2. We lesser lights suspect mockery.

3. Coupled with the gift of prophesy and a diaphanous robe, it is too much.

4. Who could blame our plots and spite-dug pit,

5. our preference for small gods to one vaster than telling.

6. Our gods are amenable to thimble-sized offerings, atonements of human measure.

7. Why serve the ineffable, suffering blindness

8. when comfort can be found in the dark?

Notes on Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers [III]

.
The favorite son knows nothing
about jealousy, cannot imagine anyone
loving him less than he loves himself,

ignorant of how his very shadow sears
like coals, of how his dulcet voice
brays in our ears, or of the paths

we furrow in our dreams, each tracing
a different murder, a different exile,
a hoe against his skull, a shearing knife

to his testicles, eager for even one
of our father’s tears to vault
as a rich and much-awaited inheritance.

Notes on Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers [IV]

.
Do you love humankind? the angel asks.
What a question for even a favorite son to answer.
We love what loves us back, what is easy
to love, what passes the time. We usually smile
at one another, the boy says, the rest of humanity
and I. Despite near divinity, the angel smirks. How little
the lad has been thwarted. Later, much later,
the angel will ask again and receive a changed reply.
For now, he merely accompanies the boy
to the future, that doorway to heartbreak
through which every soul steps.

Schadenfreude: Notes on Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers [V]

The angels … were created in Our image, yet are not fruitful…[T]he beasts are fruitful, yet are not after Our likeness. We will create man—in the image of the angels, and yet fruitful!

1. Once again, creation disappoints.

2. The angels flutter a vast gloat.

3. Hadn’t they warned יהוה embodied souls could only blunder?

4. Even the cherubs suspected wombs would only gestate frustration.

5. Still, יהוה pursued his puny and petulant shadows.

6. Part of the problem, the favorite son observes the tutting echelons,

7. dazzled as they scintillate—uncountable gossiping mouths.

Jareen Imam author photo

Devon Balwit’s work appears in The Worcester Review, The Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Barrow Street, Rattle, Sierra Nevada Review, and Grist, among others. Her most recent collections are We Are Procession, Seismograph [Nixes Mate, 2017], Dog-Walking in the Shadow of Pyongyang [Nixes Mate Books, 2021] and Spirit Spout [Nixes Mate Books, 2023]. For more, visit https://pelapdx.wixsite.com/devonbalwitpoet

Editors’ Choice, Week 4

 

“Ekundayo (Daughter When You Read This…),” “Survivor Series,” “Pray for Me,” and “Inner Child” by Donnie Moreland

Ekundayo (Daughter, When You Read This…)

.

I’ll begin with a sermon on empty pill bottles,

a full tub and desperation.

I’ll begin with a confession — a lot of niggas don’t make it here.

I’ll begin with the ground beneath my daddy’s feet rotating like a crooked wheel,

keeping him in place but spreading him apart

like the black hole between my teeth and

each letter in the declaration, “I’m going to kill myself.”

I called him first.

I’ll begin with the semicolon on my right wrist.

I’ll begin as your father.

I’ll begin where Pa Pa refused to say your daddy’s name in the past tense.

You began because he refused our finale.

I’ll begin with his rebuttal.

I’ll begin with his love.

A love swollen between wounds and cures.

Fear and fire.

Gore and glory.

A love.

Love.

I’ll begin with love.

And somewhere along the way, we’ll figure out that joy part.

Survivor Series

.

My father used to wrestle me.

Pin me.

Raise my legs and count to three.

 

I laughed, in defeat.

Each holler covers the distance between the cosmos in creation.

 

We don’t talk much now.

I feel his hand on my shoulder when I wrestle my daughter  —   the pressure of falling onto a bed

or into birth  — and I turn to reverse his maneuver.

But he’s not there.

Just the marbled monument to a tag team comeback that never was.

 

We don’t talk much now.

But luckily, ghost stories don’t always belong to the dead.

Pray for Me

.

Say a little prayer for the boy.

For me.

For him.

And his men.

Say a little prayer for his father.

His father’s keeper.

And his keeper still.

Say a little prayer for the boy.

And if you can, say another.

Inner Child

.

I hope that boy inside you…

the one kicking his feet in the air, hollering at cartoon characters and

eating cotton candy in Crayola crayon castles,

picking his nose and

dirtying his pant legs while running shoeless

to the corner store…

I hope that boy still triumphs over his archnemesis.

I hope he’s still doing somersaults on wood chips

where the splinters jab deepest.

I hope that boy still pulls on fire alarms and opens closet doors to evil empires in need of a champion.

I hope that boy still throws himself down rolling hills, under a pink sunset and a white moon.

I hope that boy knows his golden grin is still heaven.

Jareen Imam author photo

Donnie Denkins Moreland Jr is a Houston-based health educator and multidisciplinary artist. Donnie holds a Master’s Degree in Film Studies from National University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Prairie View A&M University. Donnie’s work centers cultural healing, black masculinities, and film criticism. Donnie has contributed to Black Youth Project, Brown Sugar Literary Magazine, RaceBaitr, Root Work Journal, A Gathering of the Tribes, Unmute Magazine, and Sage Group Publishing.

National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

As the pandemic has continued into its second year, we at Brain Mill are thinking about spaces & places: how we exist in space, the importance of access, and the particulars of navigating places. We have gathered together in ways that may have been new to us over the last few years, greeting each other in small squares of connectivity, developing relationship and care with virtual check-ins, follows, and voices translated via technology. In our best moments we have learned to listen; in our worst, we have been caught up by all the ways we need to do better and think more deeply about community systems and for whom entry is barred.

Jareen Imam author photo

About the Editor

C. Kubasta writes poetry, fiction, and hybrid forms. Her most recent book is the short story collection Abjectification. She supports her creative work as Director of Education at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Find her at ckubasta.com and follow her @CKubastathePoet

Top photo by Jill Burrow

Eintou and Atari: In Conversation

Eintou and Atari: In Conversation

by Jennifer Morales

I recently learned of an African American poetic form called the eintou from a substack post by writer, editor, and yogi Cosima Smith and it’s been talking to me since. An eintou is a 7-line poem with a specific number of syllables in each line: 2-4-6-8-6-4-2.

Smith offered this example:

The pearl
holding wisdom
spoken from the sweet tongues
Wet with Hunger, Red with Power,
of poets met in verse,
and verse alone,
is home.

—Cosima Smith

That reminded me of a form I invented in 2019, called atari—Japanese for “neighborhood” or “in the vicinity of,” or “the surroundings”—and introduced at one of the last in-person writing workshops I taught before the pandemic shut that kind of life down. The atari is 15 words forming two interconnected poetic lines, a verb joining them in the middle. Three words coming from the left and three words coming from the right develop two neighboring lines. The verb connects the lines in the middle, then they part again by way of four more words each.

Smith’s eintou example reminded me of the atari, with that strong middle line of wet hunger and red power cinching two ends of a poetic conversation (the “sweet tongues”, the “poets met in verse”).

Here are a couple of ataris I wrote for the 2023 National Poetry Month (I highlighted the two lines in different colors, for ease of noticing the structure, but color isn’t necessarily part of it).

I encourage you to write your own. Remember that the line descending from the left and the one from the right should be in conversation with each other. It can be helpful to come up with an evocative verb for that single middle position, then build out the two descending lines from there. Once composed, the poem’s two lines can be read however you’d like, but I see it as two lines running vertically, reading the left one first, top to bottom, then the right one, top to bottom.

And, yes, Gen Xers: I was indeed inspired to create this form by the blocky alien shapes of the 1978 video game Space Invaders. Once I learned what the word atari means in Japanese, the form basically created itself, as I reflected on how two neighboring lines can entangle, complicate, and enrich each other.

About Jennifer Morales

Jennifer Morales is the second-place winner of the 2020 Wisconsin People & Ideas Fiction Contest. She is a poet, fiction writer, and performance artist based in rural Wisconsin. Morales lived in Milwaukee for over twenty years, and served as the city’s first elected Latinx school board member. She’s also been a mom, a doula, a Sunday School teacher, a grantwriter, and an editor for academic and artistic clients around the world. Her short story collection, Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories (UW Press, 2015), was Wisconsin Center for the Book’s 2016 “Book of the Year.” Recent publications include “Cousins,” a short story in Milwaukee Noir  and “The Boy Without a Bike” in Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers, edited by Joyce Carol Oates. Morales is the president of the board of the Driftless Writing Center in Viroqua.

National Poetry Month
National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! For poets and poetry lovers—and perhaps for those who love poets—this is a special time. At Brain Mill Press, we like to celebrate all month long by sharing featured poets, and with our fee-free contest. This year, we’re thinking about poetry cycles, poems that speak to each other, forms that build on each other (like crowns), and the ways a poem can be a scaffold or foundation for other poems. Our words are often in response to other poems, and our own body of work is often an ongoing conversation. We speak to each other, with ourselves, and sometimes into the void—hoping someone will answer back.

 

Top photo by bady abbas on Unsplash