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.
by Alicia Wright in Tinderbox Poetry Journal
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?
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
Hungry, I cram all the names
for ocean, the earth of my mouth
bracing for rain—
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.
by Halee Kirkwood in Poem-a-Day
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.
by Julia B. Levine in SWWIM