Brain Mill Press Celebrates
Many poets are confronted with questions about the role of poetry in their lives or in the wider world. “But, what does poetry do?” “Does anyone read poetry anymore?” “So, you’re a poet . . .?” with a long lingering silence afterward, as if the person has encountered a rarefied artifact – or maybe a rhinoceros.
This year, for April Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press seeks to answer this question by asking our contributors to address poetry in the context of teaching and learning. The essays and poems we’ll post over the course of April engage with what poetry teaches, and how in learning poetry (and learning in poetry) we learn something about ourselves, each other, and the wider world. Our contributors shared essays and poems that speak to poetry in multiple contexts, all centering around the idea of teaching.
“Teaching” is understood broadly, as is “learning.” Several poets write about their early poet-mentors and how this early support and knowledge has borne them along in their writing lives. A former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin engages with teaching and poetry as witnessing. The current Poet Laureate of Wisconsin writes about collective and community memory. A teacher-poet reflects on his younger poet-self, meeting a poet he much admired and learning to ignore well-intentioned advice, when that advice urged the poet to step back from his understanding of what poetry could, and should, do. A young writer writes about how she manifests her reality: dogs and desires and visions. What these poets suggest is that we learn through each other – language and poetry is the medium of this learning.
Please join us over this month as we read the words of poets and share the incoming entries from our Student Poetry Contest, highlighting the voices of young poets. Be sure to check back at the end of the month to help us congratulate the winner of our Student Poetry Contest.
–C. Kubasta, BMP Assistant Poetry Editor & contest judge
For April Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press is sponsoring a Student Poetry Contest. For our purposes, “student” includes anyone enrolled either in high school or college, who has not yet graduated with an undergraduate degree.
Please submit 1-3 poems, any style and length. In a short bio, include information about where you attend school, your studies, and your poetic interests. Please also upload an author photo – which we will use it if your poem is selected as either an editors’ pick or a winner. By entering the contest, you confirm the work is your own, and that it hasn’t yet been published (either print or online). We particularly encourage submissions from poets of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ writers.
The editors will select a poem or poems each Saturday in April as the editors’ pick(s), and BMP poetry month coordinator C. Kubasta will choose a grand prize winner. Selected poems will be published on the Brain Mill Press website and social media channels. Editors’ pick poets are awarded with a Brain Mill Press print book (and associated art gift, if available) of their choice. The grand prize winner receives a full set four Brain Mill Press Mineral Point chapbooks from 2015-2016 and associated broadsides. Poets retain all rights to their work.
Poetry and Essays
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2016 Contest Winner
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.
Imani Davis’s “Grave Robber Digs with a Pen” uses subversive structure that leaves the worst of its witness unspoken and unwritten. This approach confronts the reader’s buried racism, excavates it, and holds it up to examination. It’s a rare poem that can be so rich and singing and yet spare in its use of language. “Grave Robber Digs with a Pen” reveals Davis as a poet of great wit and great sensitivity, self-aware of her voice and its power.
BMP Poetry Broadsides
Tanka & Me broadside
A commentary on art-making and grace. The text is printed in two colors on 110-pound 100% cotton Crane Papers Lettra, overprinted on the chapbook’s signature interior illustration of a keyhole, which also appears as a printed motif.
My Seaborgium broadside
A commentary on a mother’s love. The text is printed in two colors on 110-pound 100% cotton Crane Papers Lettra, overprinted on the chapbook’s signature interior illustration of the element Seaborgium, which also appears as a printed motif.
Fair Day in an Ancient Town broadside
Reproducing lines from the poem “The Presentation,” the text is printed in two colors on 110-pound 100% cotton Crane Papers Lettra, overprinted on the chapbook’s signature interior diatom illustration, which also appears as a printed motif.
My Tall Handsome broadside
Reproducing lines from the poem “pretty pretty princess vs. the underworld,” the text is printed in two colors on 110-pound 100% cotton Crane Papers Lettra, overprinted on the chapbook’s signature interior illustration of an empty ball gown, which also appears as a printed motif.
Discover BMP Poetry
From “Me and Tanka”
You’re dull, she says, you can’t even
cross your eyes correctly. Your relationships last
five months because you turn so USUAL.
In your Secret Garden
you grow carrots and plastic wrap.
You like Lean Cuisine dinners.
You don’t have fancy shoes.
You hum poorly. And you’re dull.
I know, I say.
Then how did you make me? she says.
Grace, I say.
Now I want joy to arrange you.
Forget the spool, the queue.
May you crow from the prow.
Be your element’s namesake
and alive, know it. My Seaborgium.
My little radish bugaboo, my
pillowfoot jeweler. Sweetgum,
sing, sing to wake the water.
From “The Presentation”
This is my lordosis: look: my part.
It wants to feel the syllables your heart
putters. I want your obsessive pulse
to part with mine only when universe
and starlight disentangle. Dumb stud, come;
I’ll be the radiator and the heat
it hisses. I’ll paint the memory
of you on my closed coffin lid and lard
my arteries with your untamed beauty.
I’ve assumed the posture of a rapt
ocelot: I moan my smell to you:
swell with me: boil with me: glue
your sternum to my sternum and we’ll do
what blue jays do until Orion snaps.
From “pretty pretty princess vs. the underworld”
my tall handsome, you are always
hydrangea in my rib, popped open
always dazzle of salt on my punched lip
love of life
the he & me I will devour
we beneath black cherry tree
all fruits and crystals on your chest
you were my first body—now and always
forever and ever, in the pink bed rippling