Announcing the 2016 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize Winner!
We are pleased to announce the winner of the 4th Annual Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize. Our final judge, Reginald Dwayne Betts selected: Ode to the Barbershop by Malcolm Friend.
His comments below:
“In these times of turmoil – maybe I should just say in America – the experience of black folks has often been relegated to one extreme or another. But the barbershop has always been something different: motley. Political and humorous. Dangerous and attentive to our vulnerabilities. Ode to the Barbershop captures that: “Call it oxymoron where to shed means to gain.” You hear that and recognize it, remember your last cut – maybe check your line up out in the mirror and make a point to visit the shop again soon. ~ Reginal Dwayne Betts
Ode To the Barbershop
call it oxymoron where to shed means to gain
dead weight of curls
falling to floor in waves—
this be baptism by blade or maybe phoenix reburst
birth by burn of razor and astringent where astringent means
yeah, your ass needed a cut and fuck happened to your line nigga?
thrown from seller to customer and
first time I sat in the chair was summer freshman year of college
I didn’t know the name of the haircut I wanted
stuttered something vague about taking it low and nodded
at everything Tony said in response hoped he wouldn’t
fuck me up would keep me fresh and fitted place where fitted
just means fitting in means what won’t I do for the benefit
of a lineup? means I knew I belonged when I said nigga
and didn’t choke on this this mutt blood where this mutt blood
means one time a barber laughed
nigga your light-skinned ass must be swimming in bitches where nigga
means I swallowed my tongue in response
and the bubbling in my throat matched the hum of the razor
Malcolm Friend is a CantoMundo fellow originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University where he was the 2014 recipient of the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a 2014 recipient of a Talbot International Award for writing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including La Respuesta magazine, the Fjords Review’s Black American Edition, Alicante’s Información, Word Riot, The Acentos Review, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, and Pretty Owl Poetry.