New Voices Recap: Summer 2017

This summer was full of poets speaking truth to power, love to bodies, grace to the ashamed. With pride, we’ve put together a list of some of our New Voices published over the last few months on Frontier. From Andrés Cerpa to Safia Elhillo and Mai Der Vang, these poems all stand firm as voices daring the frontier lands of language, words braced against the danger and darkness of our world, closer this year perhaps than most.

“from Fear of Intimacy, Fear of Want”

by Andrés Cerpa

“where the thigh high weeds gut fish in the wind/ & where laughter rises like blood through the texture of a sock.”

Pulled from a longer manuscript to be published soon, these two poems from “Fear of Intimacy, Fear of Want” speak to the depths of that longer work. Beyond the fresh body imagery, these poems evoke place with precision and delicacy, a place haunted by human relationships, friendship, tragedy. There’s history in these few lines—we dare the reader not to leave them wanting more. Read Andrés’s poetry here.

“Unfinished Sonnet”

by Chaun Ballard

“After the club closed its doors and feet-/swelled-liquored-bodies poured hood-romance onto street, you stumbled onto another parking lot where shadow-hued/ earth music spewed out the trunks of cars”

We are proud to publish Chaun Ballard’s powerful “Unfinished Sonnet.” It does all the right things a sonnet and elegy should do. The poem packs the mouth with sounds, darkly enjoyed—it gives us character and story compacted into14 short lines, and the last two blank: the loss of words for the loss of meaning. What better rhymes with death than empty, blank space? Read Chaun’s poetry here.

“One”,”Two”, & “Three”

by Reuben Canning Finkel

“a shouting match: someone/ breaks their fall against the curb, donating/ what I thought was a trail of paint thirty yards/ to their door,”

This series of poems by Reuben Canning Finkel is transportive; with these three moments of a child’s life, we’re given a deep and intimate picture of family, of community, of childhood. Finkel builds scenes that are easy to recognize and grounded imagery that feels instantly familiar—and note, too, the pieces of grammar used in subtle ways to bring out his persona’s childlike voice. Read Reuben’s poetry here.

“Lifting Weights” & “Come Bye”

by Wade C. Bentley

“At night, I sit/ on the edge of my bed and tick through each/ of my children and grandchildren, holding them/ one at a time in my thoughts”

These two poems brim with a voice of grandfatherly confidence. There’s humor, there’s wisdom, there’s humility. Wade C. Bentley, an emerging poet later in his life, reminds us that poetry is more than trauma or broken hearts or heroic deeds—poetry is grandchildren, is walking the dog, is organizing the spice rack at home alone. Read Wade’s poetry here.

“Although You Felt So Close, (Within Splashes)”

by Adrian Cepeda

“How we seemed so small/ as this blue downward/ tide splashed our trembling/ bodies lying to the sea”

Breathless and rolling, “Although You Felt So Close, (Within Splashes)” presses with momentum at every line. The poem lands at a breakneck intimacy that’s surprising and comfortable, and Adrian Cepeda carries his reader with fluid motion, puts their feet on the shore to feel the tickle of the tide. You can view the painting that inspired this bit of ekphrasis at the bottom of the page. Read Adrian’s poetry here.

“Burning Haibun”

by torrin a. greathouse

“his car curved inward like a palm, how it birthed him/ back as a fist & i became the bloody rise of crescent moons hidden inside.”

The poetic gestures of “Burning Haibun” are simple, genuine, and surprising. As soon as we read the prose-poem section, we knew this was going to be accepted—but then, as we read the erasure, we got so excited to share it that we’ve pushed this piece ahead in the schedule. torrin a. greathouse writes with authority beyond what their biography would suggest, and this poem is suggestive of a great body of poetry to come. Read torrin’s poetry here.

“Grove of Stones” & “Year of the Tornado”

by Mai Der Vang

“This is the day to confirm that every star/ Is a brilliant seed on its way to becoming/ A pumpkin.”

Mai Der Vang stands out as a poet of stunning & lurid language. These two new poems exemplify the work displayed in her debut collection, Afterland (Graywolf Press 2017)—the geographies of grief & the bare evidence of spiritual truth. Vang, with linguistic dexterity, carves out lush spaces for the reader to encounter the dislocation of their very ability to make images from her words. Read Mai Der’s poetry here.

“application for asylum” & “asmar”

by Safia Elhillo

“asmar asmarani & hear my own dark name/ i shake out the dark froth of my hair”

Safia Elhillo’s The January Children has been on of the most exciting collections of 2017. These two new poems show why. Here, Elhillo comfortably explores established and invented forms with her beautiful, consistent focus on language, and bodies, and the hot spot where two cultures collide. There are few poets emerging today that can manage such a balance (think Akbar, think Monet, think Shire). Read Safia’s poetry here.

“The Ghost of Marvin Gaye Sits In The Ruins Of The Old Livingston Flea Market And Considers Monogamy” & “Welcome to Heartbreak”

by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

“there is no corner     of midnight     where I aint     a god to somebody”

We are so excited to get the chance to publish some of Hanif’s latest work. You can see some of his usual strokes here: the play with breath & pause, the mischievous titles, the exploration of race & truth & violence through imagery of the body. If you like these, make sure read his The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, one of Frontier’s favorite books from last year. Read Hanif’s poetry here.

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