The Present of Poetry


“The Present of Poetry” by Serrina Zou received third place for the 2021 Emerging Poet Prize, as selected by Kelli Russell Agodon.

In conversation with Ada Limón’s poem, “The End of Poetry,” the beautiful and well-crafted poem “The Present of Poetry” pulled me in with lines like Only ever headlines bleary/with the news that our corpse count is not enough and Only the distance/between lovely & lonely. I felt the history of last year woven throughout this poem in connecting and poignant ways; the poet’s voice was like a light shining over the land I kept following and returning to and I appreciated the attention to detail and sound throughout. Beautiful work to reread again and again.  —Kelli Russell Agodon

after “The End of Poetry” by Ada Limón

Because we are the sum of our taxable metaphors for martyr:
in these economies of want we wash away our soot stains, hang
the softness of our limbs on laundry lines. So we say enough of
this gold standard for God, the most ruthless currency of grief.
There is never enough bleach to taint our country clean, only enough
body politics to call ourselves a nation. Only ever headlines bleary
with the news that our corpse count is not enough. Only the distance
between lovely & lonely, a catachresis contouring our obituaries
with enough tragedies & travesties to fill our last days with debt.
Not enough human left in these towering flights whose calcium
& circuitry will last longer than our legacies will. Never enough
of nuclear families & their metastasis of meat:
how even in this cacophony of solitude we are still classifying
mothers as mere vessels for their unborn children. Never
enough asking how much is too much because even
everything & more is not enough. Because I need to touch you,
except I can’t now. But five hundred bloodlines into the future,
I want to anyway & maybe that will be enough.

Serrina Zou