New Voices Contest, 1st Place Winner: Small and Personal by Donte Collins

Of the 2022 New Voices Contest first place winner, the judge José Olivarez states, “Donte Collins’s poem SMALL & PERSONAL has a magnetic voice. There’s no hesitation here: the poem moves from questions of violence to 10th grade civics to love and sex. Am I wrong for imagining the poem coated in anger? Donte Collins calls to my own rage and grief and love in this brilliant poem.”



Small and Personal

after Essex Hemphill


Some men want blood. Some want

A country to carpet their ego. Red

To match the clock. Fear to match

The manufacturing of money. In 10th

Grade civics we paired off to debate

The Great American Dilemma: One

Bomb, Two homelands. The question

Theoretical. The theory unquestioned.

Answer: There aren’t synonyms for blood

So consider instead the iron sharp against

Any man’s neck who’d drop a bomb

& call it de-escalation. Answer: If god

Stopped working on the 5th day, honey

Would be the last element of nature by now.

What other conditions are there: my hands

Buzzing with night air, my lover’s arch,

Two dimples collecting the sudden rain

Smearing the poem’s ink into the grass.

I want to tell a New Story of Hope & then

I want a few men dead. I have a dilemma

Of my own, delicious against an American

Museum of Graves. But here he go, shaking

His ass to the whist of thunder as the geese cursive

The October current. My anger isn’t looking

To be solved so I tilt my chin to the sky.

Drink he says. I forfeit my pen and I drink.


Donte Collins

Donte Collins is the Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of Saint Paul, the recipient of the 2018 McKnight Fellowship for Spoken Word, and the author of the chapbook Autopsy (Button Poetry, 2017), a Minnesota Book Award Finalist. Collins the recipient of the 2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholarship in Poetry through Adroit Journal.

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