Do Ho Suh, Hub, 3rd Floor, Union Wharf, 23 Wenlock Road, London N1 7ST, UK, 2016. © Do Ho Suh, courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul. Linda Pace Foundation Collection, Ruby City, San Antonio, Texas

2022 NPMSA WINNING EKPHRASTIC POEMS

YOUTH WINNER: 

Hub, 3rd Floor, Union Wharf, 23 Wenlock Road, London N1 7ST, UK 

By Aarav Gedala 

Open holes, open doors, open wounds, yet no salvation can pass through 

And reality ceases not as the walls thin and the air breathes away 

As people pass by and the sun raises and falls like the breath in my chest slipping away 

And eventually the sun and the moon look the same through this purple lens 

And as I watch death at my front door 

I can’t escape to salvage what’s left of the world 

And I can’t go back to when maybe I didn’t keep myself in this cage 

And even after tracing every single crevice of this building 

I still can’t find the will to hold on to that last breath 

And as the air slips away from me 

I can’t find the will to leave, the will to live 

as the air slips away from me 

I don’t bother making a step outside the third floor of the hub on 23 Wenlock Road 

Because I no longer hold possession, I hold no more love, and what I cared for doesn’t care for me 

ADULT WINNERS: 

Pop-Pop’s Hallway 

By Robert J. Cavazos 

A purple haze outline forms 

three access points to memory. 

Sans the RAM of lived experience, 

what’s sculpted crumples like fabric. 

Memory only has some steel to it. 

Once, I envisaged each transition 

as sharp, vertical—brilliant, bright lines. 

For each entry and exit, a translucent corridor. 

This is how we maintain memory. 

Thread it through an empty passageway— 

a tall hallway where my grandfather had laughed 

as my wife and I danced and he felt young again. 

Genius local 

By Pablo Miguel Martinez 

No shiplap walls, no posts or closets, only négligée’d frame, 

see-all construct I call soul. Some boast they know 

my diaphanous chambers, but oafishly mistake translucence 

for weakness. Shameless! they excoriate. All because I am gauzy 

and prefer the ethereal, a suggestion of heaven. Easy to pin, 

this filmy part of me. Every night they come, spewing unveiled threats, 

armed with shears, jagged words, and spite. My sisters, glass frog 

and immortal jellyfish, remind me: Our joy and salvation— 

the phobics’ disgust and desire—puzzle the conventional. 

Where does the sea end and integument begin? 

Where does the truth begin and the great lie end? See for yourself— 

I’ve nothing to hide. My life an exquisite exhibition, monumental. 

Laud this not-cathedral, mother’s lavendered breath, this not-pavilion. 

Prize this pervious house of mine—sheer and plain and beautiful. 

Wangechi Mutu, This second Dreamer, 2017, bronze, 5.5 x 15 x 16 in. © Wangechi Mutu, courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Linda Pace Foundation Collection, Ruby City, San Antonio, Texas.

Lucid Vagary

In a land far, far away where the speculative gaze of almond shaped eyes kiss the invisible atmosphere with passion. We look towards the universe that has yet to be. 

Behold, thick lips of curvy hipped humans that have always been. Civilizations were carved out of the clefts of their chins and brilliant diadems. 

This poem is for the tiny pharaohs hiding behind skirt hems in the kitchen, as big mama makes soul food Sunday dinner for the family to feast on. 

This poem is for the curious bronze-skin girls climbing trees in the backyard or playing dress up in granny’s closet because they see themselves 10 feet taller than what they really are.

You are a rising star and your footprints will find forevermore on every shore you dare to stand upon. Because Black people are in the future. We were cradled in ancient mesopotamia. We lavishly thrived by the confluence of rivers, our children babbling brooks. The Nile and Euphrates a reservoir between our teeth. Our elders conjured to conga drums in the Congo; our griots fed the village history lessons in the text of melodious songs. 

And so we grew through centuries and sound. Springing up like gray hairs in the scalps of every region. 

With conquest we were carried willfully or unwillingly to new shores time and time again. Despite any form of genocide formed against us: we thrived, survived, remained alive and accounted for, even when census after census failed to document us. 

We were there and we will continue to be like beads moving across the fine strings of an abacus.  

Tonight, I raise a colony of tongues in my dreams. I lay my head on wood carved from my roots springing high. In nocturne I summon my timeline to tilt over against my temples and support my coiling crown. An ethereal realm expounds as I drift further into it. My limbs leaping and leaving my head behind. My mind enters the second dream of this night, a new cycle cracking a chrysalis and closing the door of oppression shut. Behind me a void diminishing, but up ahead I am preceded by light.  

-Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson

About Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson
Andrea Vocab Sanderson is the first Black Poet Laureate of San Antonio, 2020-2023. She is a San Antonio native. Her dynamic performance style is an originally crafted fusion of spoken word poetry, hip hop and soulful rhythm and blues. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including Dream Voice, People’s Choice Award, Best Live Entertainment/Band Musician of the Year by the 17th Annual SEA Awards, Best Literary Advocate 2021 San Antonio Magazine, and The Arts and Letters Award by Friends of San Antonio Public Library in 2020. Best Local Poet 2021 by The San Antonio Current. She serves as a Teaching Artist for Gemini Ink. In 2021, she received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship. Vocab’s debut book is entitled She Lives In Music and was released by Flower Song Press in February of 2020. Her music is available on all music streaming platforms. For more information visit her website andreavocabsanderson.com IG: Vocabulous For her book visit: www.flowersongpress.com/sanderson 

2022 EKPHRASTIC POETRY CONTEST GUIDELINES

Poetry month is just around the corner! We partnered with local poets and other art institutions to invite you to draw inspiration from artworks. Submit a poem written in response to Hub, 3rd Floor, Union Wharf, 23 Wenlock Road, London N1 7ST, UK, from our collection. If you win, your poem will be shared in April to celebrate National Poetry Month.

What is an Ekphrastic Poem? An ekphrastic poem is one based on a piece of art. These poems take an existing piece of visual art, and use written words to describe and expand on the theme of that work of art. Often these poems explore hidden meanings or an underlying story.

What to submit: Submit up to two (2) poems (each no more than 15 lines plus title) written in response to the art image.  

Deadlines:
Youth – March 18
Adult – March 23

Where to Find Contest Submission Guidelines:

You can read the contest guidelines including submission information at any of these links:

Arts Alive San Antonio: https://artsalivesa.com/ 
Bihl Haus Arts: https://bihlhausarts.org/
Gemini Ink: https://geminiink.org/ekphrastic-poetry-contest-npmsa-22/
San Antonio Public Library: https://guides.mysapl.org/poetry/ekphrastic