2021 OPEN Finalists: Part 1 of 3

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 Sneha Subramanian Kanta, Christiane Jacox, and Kelly Weber. The pieces are diverse, arresting, and substantial, each in their own voice and method. Part 2 arrives tomorrow!



I bet you Google net worth to compare how you rank.

Listen— What books you keep you in your house is political.
Of those, the books you choose not to read is also political.

An excerpt from a book in your house explains
how the oceans are being drastically altered by human activity.
Everything is about water, because everything is about birth.

When we speak of birth, we speak of mothers.
We speak of fathers.
We speak of people you are uncomfortable speaking about.
We speak of those on behalf of whom you want to speak.

Quiet. Water is not about greed.

Have you ever looked at what color is the moon?
I tried, while walking alone on a street of the country in question.
I was catcalled by a group of white men. Sweetheart I’ll love you tender.
Tell me what you know of violence, and I’ll tell you how colonists lie.
Tell me what you know about escape, and I’ll tell you how I ran.

Somebody has plucked the zinnia again
because they only like a face that holds terror.

It is true that this can be any city, any country.

Immigrants are the patron saints of fleeing.
I’m always forgetting cities because I had to evacuate many.
Every lost city is a river in the shape of someone I love.

Hands that bless aren’t always hands that feed.

When you migrated, you saw every pair of eyes as slits for coins.
Now you want throats filled with clanking sounds of coins.

You create knots— because you know more about coins,
you care less about water. Look, the world is burning.
Even rivers with alluvial soil deposits run barren because of wildfires.
History is a wall charcoaled with erasure, stuck with coins.

I cannot tell you about a country without telling you about revision.

Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a writer from the Greater Toronto Area, Canada. She is a recipient of the 2021 Robert Hayden Scholarship at Stockton University. She is the recipient of the inaugural Vijay Nambisan Fellowship 2019. She was the Charles Wallace Fellow writer-in-residence (2019-20) at The University of Stirling. An awardee of the GREAT scholarship, she has earned a second postgraduate degree in literature from The University of Plymouth. Her dissertation concentrated on a comparative literature study exploring postcolonial ecocriticism in the fiction and non-fiction of Arundhati Roy and Amitav Ghosh. Her work is forthcoming in Pleaides, The Carolina Quarterly, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbook Ghost Tracks (Louisiana Literature Press, 2020). She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal. Website: www.snehasubramaniankanta.com.


For Once: Six Cygnets by Christiane Jacox

Fall has arrived and they are still so young.
Their grey necks dip into questions the body asks
as they bath each morning on the small beach
just beyond my window, and each morning I count—
like clockwork, like a child stuttering a charm,
an unbeliever’s decisive, quick prayer—those questions,
whether one has gone missing, gone down into the lake
by way of the snapping turtle, the hook, or the broken line—
whatever was waiting under the darkening water while I slept,
and now it is light and it is day and for once I want
only to look out without counting to see what or who
lives and bends to what hasn’t yet been answered.
For once I want to wake up praising something other
than this day’s zero sum. Yes, today, I would see only light
shimmer the water and their wet, grey down, each gentle beak
lifting a frond of grass, tipping the question in joy’s favor.

Christiane Jacox’s first book of poetry, Bears Dancing in the Northern Air, received the Yale Younger Poets’ Prize in 1990. Eastern Washington University published her translation of Gabriela Mistral’s Poemas de las Madres in 1996. In the intervening years since, translations and poems have made their slow way into journals including Poetry, Sun Dog, Prairie Schooner, The Connecticut Poetry Review, Water-Stone Review and The New Millennium Awards (honorable mention), and The Yale Younger Poets’Anthology. Having launched her three children, and recently retired from teaching, she is returning to writing more regularly.



Kelly Weber (she/her/hers) is the author of We Are Changed to Deer at the Broken Place (Tupelo Press, 2022). Her work has appeared in The Laurel Review, Brevity, The Missouri Review, Southeast Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Colorado State University and lives with two rescue cats.
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