We are delighted to present the winner of April’s Brain Mill Press Celebrates Poetry Month Contest for 2016:

“Grave Robber Digs with a Pen” by Imani Davis.

We received submissions from nearly eighty individual poets of a very high caliber, from which poetry month coordinator C. Kubasta selected the winning poem, as well as short and long lists of finalists (see below).

We are grateful to C. Kubasta for her hard work in organizing our poetry month event, as well as to all of the contributors, contest entrants, and readers for making this such a rich and wonderful month. If, after reading Imani Davis’s winning poem, you’re in the mood for still more wonderful poetry, check out our editors’ choice picks for week one, week two, and week three, and investigate the full list of poetry month essays and poems.

–Ruthie Knox & Mary Ann Rivers, Brain Mill Press Publishers


And what an April Poetry Month it was. Here at Brain Mill we posted poems and essays, conversations between poets and lovers of poetry, and shared love far and wide. Entries for our poetry contest arrived from all over the world, keeping us nourished all month long.

I remember once when I misspelled “playwright” my teacher gave me this helpful device: It’s playwright, like wrought iron, because that’s how hard they work on their craft. (He was a theatre person. I never misspelled it again). But why don’t poets, then, have some difficult-to-predict spelling? Something that suggests red-glow-heat, twisting metal, long-handled tools and the long cool in the ashy water?

No matter. The poems I kept coming back to did just this. The tension between language and form was always there, deftly handled, turned and smoothed until the poem could not be in any form but this one. And here and there the wright left barbs for the reader to find, a moment that stops her mid-line, breathless, the body of the poem waiting with her.

–C. Kubasta, Contest Judge & Poetry Month Coordinator

Grave Robber Digs with a Pen

Imani Davis

When a Black ______ dies and they last breath is played on repeat, must we still paint the forest? I debate this with my hands.

They say Ain’t nobody else to remember the blood. I say they ain’t the ones bleeding.

I interrogate every poem about the dead. There they go, robbing the grave and settling in the boy’s place.

What do we grow with this? While I ask, the poem picks lilies off the casket.

The grief is not all (a) mine.

Vulture’s talon ( be ) artist in my hands     say look how          the skull shines in your light.

Watch: ____. _____. You ain’t flinch? How you used to forcing reincarnation?

I get it. Shut the news off and the screen’s a mirror. You don’t ask to be reflected in the black of its pause.

You here though: Dense tangle of light hostage

in God’s 3 dimensions. Or maybe not You. (the faces all blur together,

Ghost shadowed and inadequate. It’s hard to tell the difference.)

My hands mimic a bullet’s carnivorous twitch. Say it ain’tme, but it could be. It ain’t meyet.

I say the fear of the bullet is not the bullet itself.

Some folk never get the chance to flinch. I translate the body of a boy into language.

The lines will never break as clean as his bones.

After the show, the check cuts like the scalpel do.

I eat. I buy my mother something

she can never lose. It is not security.

Imani Davis is Black magic. She currently works on Urban Word NYC’s Youth Leadership Board. Her poetry has appeared in Rookie Magazine and the occasional trash can.

Poetry Month Contest Finalists


“There ain’t nothing like Breck for Stop n Stare Hair” by Jessica Jacobs (also an Editors’ Choice Pick)

“Brunch Plans” by Tyler Gillespie


“Extinction” by Robin Johnstone

“psychonausea” by Catherine Chen (also an Editors’ Choice Pick)

“The Frequency of a Periodic Function” by Jen Karetnick

“Watching the Glassmakers” by Daniel Lassell

“Waves Like Breath / There Is Finally Quiet” by Meghan Sterling

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.