Break Poetry Open Contest Winner

Hannah Soyer

—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

About 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.

About Daisy Bassen

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.

National Poetry Month


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.

About Levi Cain

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
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
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
let it slide through the grip of her
mother tongue,
into the stomach of America
……………[& her mispronunciations]

About Uma Menon

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.

National Poetry Month

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

About Penelope Alegria

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.

National Poetry Month

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

About Cassandra Hsiao

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


National Poetry Month

This Cosmic Dance

Contest Editors’ Pick

Natasha McLachlan

About 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.​

National Poetry Month
National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month — Break Poetry Open

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like... the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.