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 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.