Poetry We Admire: Voice


For November’s Poetry We Admire, we curated poems that engage with “Voice” in some way. Sometimes that involves explicitly describing the way sound is physically formed in the mouth, as Vismai Rao and Melissa Crowe do in their poems.  Or the engagement with voice may be implicit, as in the persona poem “Self-Portait as the Changeling” where the poet Halee Kirkwood takes on the voice of the fictional character Odo from the television show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Voice is how we express ourselves— the tone and timbre, the language we speak, the words we choose, the breath, the silence. Poets listen closely and give voice as well to animals, objects, and places, just as Alicia Wright does in “Sotto Voce, Abandoned Barn.”

At this time, it’s worth noting that our voices are also crucial to the function of democracy and the struggle to keep it. All over the world, people are raising their voices to be heard, from protests in the streets of Nigeria and Peru to our own recent election here in the U.S.

As it is said, your vote is your voice. And the people have spoken. Listen.



Do not labor with your prayer

                          like a hammer. The barn’s

a colony of wood dissolving

                                               in the dark.


 from “Sotto Voce, Abandoned Barn”

by Alicia Wright in Tinderbox Poetry Journal


                                                My fists
clench of their own accord     the word
no always vibrating     my mouth
I’ve had a headache for one thousand
two hundred and four days     America, beloved
does every kid pretend to be dead
doing the dead man’s float?

from “America you’re breaking”

by Melissa Crowe in The Shore



In the village, the first thing that goes is their voices,
like ivory fish bones sucked clean of flesh.

Then the nets, cast in again and again,
dragging up empty. Mothers wailing to the moon.


from “Malacca River”

by Kwan Ann Tan in The Offing



How the tongue rises

to touch the roof of its dwelling
split second before it speaks

of itself—
Hungry, I cram all the names

for ocean, the earth of my mouth
bracing for rain—

from “I pause Duolingo to eat an apple”

by Vismai Rao

in Night Heron Barks



I knew hate most

not as these but in my 
formlessness, poured into a coffee cup

            my keeper mimicked to sip. 
             I could not honey my clay. 

The shape of our star days, 
a hum in the rookery of birds 

             I’d know, and never be.

from “Self-Portrait as the Changeling”

by Halee Kirkwood in Poem-a-Day



Even now, 

at dusk’s appointed hour, after another day in quarantine, 
we stand on our porches and howl, disembodied voices 

in a wild call and response, summoning our living and dead.  
Because we need each other.


from “Letter from the Plague to my Dead Friend”

by  Julia B. Levine in SWWIM