Frontier OPEN 2020 Finalists: Kim Addonizio, Elizabeth Shvarts, & Itiola Jones

First, a sincere thank you to all the finalists for partnering with us. All of these poems deserve high praise. For Part 1, we’re sharing work by Kim Addonizio, Elizabeth Shvarts, Itiola Jones. The pieces are diverse, arresting, and substantial, each in their own voice and method. Part 2 arrives tomorrow!


Cracked Logic

by Kim Addonizio

There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. -Leonard Cohen

Yes, but Pandora cracked open the jar lid & look what happened.
Kilauea cracked open & out came molten rock, creeping through the subdivisions, oozing into
++the ocean.

From fracking, methane. Ditto from pig shit & cow farts.
The worms get in, the worms get out…

Crack a cow & out come hamburgers, fatty steaks, cancer & heart disease.
Coconuts: nearly impossible to crack open, so best to find one already halved, filled with a
++blended pina colada & a straw.

Out of the beginning of time creeps the end.
Out of the fetal monitor, the ICU ventilator.

Yes, but out of the cradle came Whitman, after many prepositional phrases, to sing about
++listening to a bird,
& once I watched baby rabbits pour from a hole in our backyard

so that was a lot of light getting out.

A crack is a tear is a hole is a gap.
A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.

The fourth wall of this poem has a crack in it.
Hello, pilgrim. Welcome to my labyrinth.

You’re not the only one who’s losing the thread, this far in.
The glittering thread.

But let’s keep going.
This is all that’s keeping me from drinking myself shitfaced.

The Liberty Bell: cracked & recast, cracked again & now mute.
When you crack an egg in a broken country, bits of shell may float away like lifeboats for tiny
++refugees fleeing over the cracked lithosphere.

The heart doesn’t crack, even when dropped from a great height,
though it may feel as though shattering has occurred.

You probably know exactly what I mean. If you don’t, you are likely a reanimated corpse
or Mitch McConnell.

When ancient Egyptians were mummified, their viscera were stored in canopic jars,
because who couldn’t use a liver or stomach in the afterlife,

but the heart was left where it was, beneath the rib cage, intact.
When my mother was no more,

When my mother was cremulated,
When my mother,


I saved some of her in a tiny jam jar.
It smelled like raspberries.



Kim Addonizio is the author of several books of poetry and prose. Her latest poetry collection is NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE from W.W. Norton.


Queer American

by Itiola Jones

I have sex with men but make love to women.
I only wish to fuck men who also desire to be fucked by men.
In the dream, I make love to Lorraine Hansberry in a rose garden.
I make straight men bow to the god of pussy.
I part her legs & kiss each faded bruise between her thighs.
In the dark, I practice my kegels to remind men who is fucking who.
Every interview asks the same question:
“What does it mean to be a queer American & Nigerian?”
Queer men take their internalized homophobia out on my naked body.
I count tiles on the ceiling to keep from laughing. My mother says
she understands “switching to women” because loving a man is hard.
I haven’t spoken to my father in months. I smoke, sometimes drink.
My father stops doing both after the stroke. I have his eyes.
I used to believe joy, like other sources of light, are scarce.
He knows nothing about me. There were things we were too embarrassed to say.



I.S. Jones is a queer American Nigerian poet and music journalist. She is a Graduate Fellow with The Watering Hole and holds fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT Writer’s Retreat, and Brooklyn Poets. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, Washington Square Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hobart Pulp, The Rumpus, The Offing, Shade Literary Arts, Blood Orange Review and elsewhere. Her work was chosen by Khadijah Queen as a finalist for the 2020 Sublingua Prize for Poetry. She is an MFA candidate in Poetry at UW–Madison as well as the Inaugural 2019­­–2020 Kemper K. Knapp University Fellowship recipient. Her chapbook Spells Of My Name is forthcoming with Newfound in 2021.


Original Sin

by Elizabeth Shvarts

my mother never was a dainty eater. she clamps down on bone
so hard that sinew gets stuck between
pearly white
teeth meet marrow inexorably firm as if to steady her own chicken-bone limbs. her limbs
are gelatin they
ebb and flow with the grace of suburbian stasis; dew
drops balanced on fresh-clipped crabgrass
sunday morning, pollen up twenty-eight percent.
my mother dines on ice cubes. she laughs in sleigh bell jingles when two foot-high snow hills cake
the lawn tells me back in russia she
lived in permafrost perpetuum
faux fur curtains
coat cherub face crusted over with ice queen’s breath.
my mother swallows floods. lets rainwater trickle
down her wicker frame from mouth to stem to hip her
hips a flower pot
swelling with the recesses of
diaper changes and dirty laundry.
women are flowers until
they’re branded weeds; my mother
is a garden.



Elizabeth Shvarts is a 16-year old writer hailing from Staten Island, NY who’s performed and spoken at storied venues such as the Apollo and United Nations. An NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador and finalist in Climate Speaks, a youth spoken word program centered around climate change, her work in climate activism-driven poetry has been highlighted by PBS, Grist Magazine, The Earth Institute at Columbia University, and more. In addition to being recognized for her work in spoken word poetry, Elizabeth has been named a National YoungArts Finalist in Play/Script for 2021, and her written work is published in Twin Pies Literary, Hadassah Magazine, jGirls Magazine, The International Writing Program’s Between the Lines: Peace and Identity Anthology, and more. You can find Elizabeth on Instagram @elizabeth.shvarts.
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