2018 Frontier OPEN Finalists

First, a sincere thank you to all the finalists for partnering with us. All of these poems deserve high praise, featuring work by Jocelyn Williams, Korey Williams, Hillary Martin, K.A. Jagai, and Oriana Ivy. E.D. Watson is also a finalist, and her work is to appear soon elsewhere. The pieces are diverse, arresting, and substantial, each in their own voice and method.


“Always, Always” by Jocelyn Williams

Oh blind and crying mother
when you ate your child
did you think such a feast
would raise this clamour in our streets? 1

The porch is always rotting, always
heaped with crust and boots, hers
and others and others still. Her bare
toes on the car mat, used
in place of welcome. Her raw fingers
moving through the pockets of wet
coats, layered on nails, one fallen
like Jim drunk in a field of lupins. Only
this time it’s not wild purple
but the dead dog’s dish, beside
the bag of groceries that didn’t
make it in and the gun, leaning
against the door
like her brother

The table is always round, always
with once white lace, folded
back, to make room for sliced bread
in a small wicker basket or jars
of mustard pickles and butter and whole
milk. Later an ashtray and cards, scrolled
with red in hands of the same
but not smooth: cracked, life
lines of car grease underneath
bitten nails. Rings from dark rum
glasses and bottles of beer, gathering
to witness her lose and smash
her fist into the staining
wood, making a small break

The laundry is always piling, always
destined for rooms she does
not visit, for fear she’ll remember bed
time reading and forehead kissing.


[1] from Eli Mandel’s “To a Friend who Sued the Mayor and Lost,” 1966

Jocelyn Williams is a writer, parent, professor and lover (of words, tolerance, sports, and summer berries). She swears by truth, fresh air and fine lines of verse. She battles to stay to see her daughters create space and her teaching encourage insight, kinship, and gut laughter. She has published research and creative work in international and Canadian journals, including TAR, Canada & Beyond, The Nashwaak Review, Canadian Woman Studies, and Mansfield Press.


“Undersong (a haibun)” by Korey Williams


Korey Williams grew up in suburban Chicago and studied at Illinois Wesleyan University, the University of Oxford, and Cornell University. His work appears or is forthcoming in Figure 1, Foothill, wildness, The Offing, Narrative Magazine, Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, and elsewhere. Williams is currently a doctoral student of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago.


“jehova” by Hillary Martin

fearful parent god
is entombed deep enough inside
indigestion cannot touch him

father still checks
my knees+++for calluses
looks at my tongue
for traces+++of scripture

man who entered you dry
called out his name

know sacrifice is synonymous
with slaughter
trembling palms reach
for an unoccupied sky

my god will lick her
from my fingertips
and point to exit

do you think god moans
each time someone opens
their legs


Hillary Martin attends California College of the Arts where she is nurturing her love for Poetry. Within her poetry, she explores a life lived in a Southern Baptist household while also identifying as a member of the LBGTQ+ community. Previous work can be seen in Glass Poetry, Feminine Collective, and Selcouth Station. When Hillary is not writing she enjoys long walks to Trader Joes and the city at sunrise.


“Thanks, Walt, for the Endless Mirrors by Which We See Ourselves” by K.A. Jagai

K. A. Jagai is a queer and multiracial poet, writer, and artist from Brooklyn, New York. They are a graduate of Bennington College. Their work has appeared in Thank You For Swallowing, Electric Literature, and Winning Writers. Last year, they received a 2018 Summer Literary Seminars fellowship for the second prize in poetry. In both art and writing, they are seeking that light within themselves and others that can only be seen when one is forced into the dark.


“It was not my” by Oriana Ivy

guitar weeping, but a young
woman sweeping the cement
floor in a restroom at a highway

stop. Sweeping, weeping,
no one comes to
America to be poor. And in my

dream I walked
up to her and took
the handle of the locomotive-wide

broom from her, and began
to sweep. She slightly
shook — then walked out into the infinite

sunlight of a country
that will never be her own —
but she too will build this Promised,

this sky-sweeping, oh say
can you, this City Upon a Hill.
And I stood there in the dim

restroom with its slits of windows
like eyes narrow with mockery,
holding with both hands

that immigrant scepter,
the broom — but the weeping,
the weeping had stopped.

Author of three prize-winning chapbooks, Oriana Ivy is a widely published poet and translator. Her work has appeared  in Poetry, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry, The Iowa Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, and many other magazines and anthologies. A former journalist and community college instructor, she leads an online poetry salon and writes a poetry and culture blog.
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