The Poetry Contest Winner: 'Responsibility'

Posted In: Events and Programs, State Library Resource Center, Pratt Profiles, Poetry
Permanent Link   All Posts

By Shaileen B.

Mya Green
Mya Green

Happy National Poetry Month! May all of us have an April full of wonderful poems, new and old. One wonderful new poem we're celebrating at the Library is "Responsibility" by Mya Green, the winner of our third annual Poetry Contest, judged and co-sponsored by Poet Lore. "Responsibility" will be published in Poet Lore's Fall/Winter issue, displayed in one of the huge show windows at the Central Library, and read by Mya on Saturday, April 12, at the CityLit Festival. Here is the poem:


We cleaned
our houses. Moved, sometimes before dirt

collected. My mother, with a Taurus
.357 magnum tucked under her arm at the grocery store—

or rather, the food pantry—galley kitchen in back

of Holy Spirit. The real reason I still follow
the catechism. Because I know what it’s like

to be truly hungry. Calm sea, startled
ocean. It is The Man who is to blame, too—

meaning Boss Man meaning Ku Klux meaning
stocks and bad investments. My mother just

as many hundreds of thousands of dimes in debt
as I am. We are double loops in an unending chain:

child beggar, gold-star report card. Six kids to bathe
in one outdoor tub. Granny making the Frank House

clean. Maw Maw dipping snuff. Ms. Johnson tells me
I can always pick cotton. Feel my lips, Mom would say,

my small hands pressed against her throat and mouth.
Feel the vibrations, she’d say. Deep South extracted

from my throat before it could root. We are not of the tribe,
we are a nation: fifteen burials at every stopping place,

sickness with each mile. Little Wolf says
the shaman woman walks in front of my mother

carrying a woven blanket, white. That I am late,
that I am never late.


When we asked Mya to share some thoughts about the poem, she wrote this:

Sometimes, writing a poem and crafting it just-so is a difficult labor. Other times though, the poem is ripe and I am ready to labor over it. I was very much ready for "Responsibility" when it arrived. I was in the company of poets, friends who’d prompted me to write into what I imagined as my mother's suffering. I could hear this poem traveling to me before I was prompted, and immediately its bones, its form, were clear. In revision there were many things that I wanted to say, things the poem itself rejected in its structure, which didn't warrant much change from the original penning. I’m not saying it came in one fell swoop, it had a quick arrival to the handwritten page, but I took a while to chisel away until I could expose its essence.

In many ways, "Responsibility" is an ode to my mother, a battle hymn of cross-generational suffering, and a testament to legacy and transcendence.

Keep an eye out for the Fall/Winter issue of Poet Lore in their e-store or at the Central Library. For other poetry events at the Pratt Library, check our calendar, email, or follow @librarypoems on Twitter.

See Mya read her winning poem below:


a lovely, strong poem; I felt as if it were me experiencing the moments of that life.
Posted by: dolores jefferson at 2/4/2015 2:22 p.m.

Great post, thank's ! John
Posted by: John( Visit ) at 10/8/2015 4:38 a.m.

A very good post, i love your aticle,
Posted by: Alphabet( Visit ) at 10/30/2015 4:46 a.m.

Thank you for this contest , he allowed me to discover a beautiful poetry. Best regards
Posted by: Arnaud( Visit ) at 11/7/2015 5:45 a.m.

Very nice
Posted by: Apprendre alphabet( Visit ) at 11/7/2015 7:34 p.m.

very beautiful and touching poem. Thanks for this grat post
Posted by: Julie l'abonn__e( Visit ) at 12/8/2015 10:42 a.m.

Beautiful poetry. Thanks for sharing this text and the video.
Posted by: Max( Visit ) at 12/11/2015 12:45 p.m.

Yes => "a lovely, strong poem; I felt as if it were me experiencing the moments of that life.__
Posted by: yomarko( Visit ) at 1/19/2016 10:58 a.m.

Lovely poetry . Thanks for sharing
Posted by: Stephane( Visit ) at 1/25/2016 11:57 a.m.

Leave a comment
Name *
Email *