The Poetry Project


Emma Gomis

The Poetry Project is proud to announce the second winner of The Brannan Prize, our new annual $1,000 prize for emerging poets in honor of former Poetry Project intern and poet Lisa Brannan.

This year’s prize judge was poet and former Poetry Project Program Coordinator, Patricia Spears Jones. Jones selected Emma Gomis as this year’s prize recipient, and had the following to share about Emmas’s work:

The poem 'Xiu Xiu' is language liscious. I love the focus on family, on sound, on the transformation of the daily — a reminder that poetry marks moments as well as aeons. And I think the work represents the qualities of Ms. Brannan.


We teach our grandmother how to use a virtual medium so she can
XXXXXXshow us the bird loitering on her balcony
XXXXXXshe says,

XXXXXXXXXXXxXMira com xiuxiueja a la finestra. El xiuxiueig em fa companyia.

Sometimes I hear it in the shower or when I’m flipping the laundry
the soft hum quickens and falls into sync
xiu xiu hum xiu xiu hum xiu xiu hum xiu xiu hum
I start to witness the sound of the same bird

My sister doesn’t call it a bird, she calls it a day. She measures time by the sounds of her food cooking.

XXXXXXDreta a la cuina vigilant mentre el menjar fa xup xup.

My text flips with the sheets. It begins with a hum followed by xup xup xiu xiu then hum again

In both terms, bird and day, space swells then collapses upon itself
XXXXXXIt forms and unforms in pliant dimensions
XXXXXXIn its swerve we all move into each other
XXXXXXXXXXXxXThe cicadas in one location echo in the opposite
The birds, Xiu xiu xiu xiu xiu xiu syncopating a cric cric cric cric cric cric

When they all unite the sounds go
Xiu xiu hum xup xup hum cric cric hum etc

I archive the sounds I hear
I codify the rain, the passing car, the squeaking door
In my silence, each sound feels significant, provides a structure in its disruption

El nostre ritme abarca el que és cotidia: el ritual, la paraula, la rutina, la repetició.

XXXXXXEl ritual – a gesture of reiteration

XXXXXXLa paraula - a poetics of the reiterative

XXXXXXLa rutina - as a practice of reiterative living

XXXXXXLa repetició – a process of reiteration

I reach a meaning-making through repetition, the resurfacing cric cric cric cric, the elliptical xiu xiu xiu xiu xiu. M’ubico i m’oriento en desxifrar els xiulets que entren per la finestra.


Dear Sister,

As I write this, rectangles overlap, creating a jagged perimeter. Our floorplans converge, one on top of the other, like an elaborate three-dimensional topography. My kitchen extends into yours, brick melds with wood.

Con esta manía de situarme
Reconozco mi espacio
Casa rectangular
Cama rectangular
Pantallas rectangulares

I move from one to the next, sweeping around the borders
There is a place where the lines intersect
syllables are muddled and language folds over
I wake up to find my pillow cradled there, in the nook of a right angle

La incertidumbre se hace perpetua
Los bordes de nuestros espacios
Se confunden, se borran,
Quedan suspendidos

Around mid-day I wanted to stop writing, but I had already put myself in the kitchen, my laptop glowing on the counter, repurposing the space. And there I kept thinking of a diagram Dianne Di Prima drew of time as a straight line with pockets that you could slip in to. I am inhabiting one of her pockets

Es un hueco vacío
Como una Cueva infinita
Donde mi nombre me vuelve a llegar

In the pocket time moves at strange speeds. Sometimes I write for hours, sometimes for minutes, both increments feel equal, approximate. From this hollow, this room and my roomlessness I talk to you. The rectangles split and a grid lays over my speech.

Las formas en distorsión expandida
Las frases se intercambian en variación
Los detalles se multiplican

As a structure, a grid is inherently multiple, it repeats itself, the same figure compulsively recurs. We say the same sentences in different orders. The grid offers order, constraint, reiteration, which in turn allows room for freedom and variation. In “The Originality of the Avant-Garde” the art critic Rosalind Krauss writes: The absolute stasis of the grid, its lack of hierarchy, of center, of inflection, emphasizes not only its anti-referential character, but–more importantly–its hostility to narrative. The grid is not a totalizing system, but rather a poetics of the iterative, a queering of linear narrative. There is no singular telling but inflections and hues that shimmer in our variation. The stories I tell you, like squares of a grid, are irreconcilable, they can’t come together to form an individual telling.

Vivo en ausencia
Entre las cuadriculas de mi papel

In the pocket where my boundaries dissolve the grid imposes itself, lines ripple across thicker lines.
The rigidity of the grid fluctuating and warping with the light.
I want everything I made before discovering the grid to disappear.
I no longer think in rectangles.

In the grid, there is no original square that is then repeated, rather all squares are repetitions of each other. In the grids used in modernist visual art, the grid overlaid onto the canvas, becomes a doubling of the surface, imposes a geometric order which, as Krauss points out, doesn’t reveal the surface but rather renders it opaque.

Quiero vivir en esta opacidad onírica
Quiero hablarte desde mi papel cuadriculado


A coven of cranes keeps vigil  

over the half-size door that leads 

to the woods  


I double over and cross 

my hands  


My sister wakes me up at 3am to tell me about her dream, how there were strange birds  nuzzling against one another. Their backs smoking like coal as they dove backwards into the water. 


The greenery covers unassuming 

so vivid and harrowing 


as if the plants were to take on 

a life that wasn't theirs

as if they would grow teeth 

extend their heads out like zip ties 

violently towards us 


I didn't say a word

I kept close and walked softly

allowing the opacity to render  

a sketch a canopy  

swaying in the dark 


As she was telling me about it the angel that came in her fever reappeared, then appeared to  disappear, and it was made of corn, a little doll from the corn fields where she left a coin in the birds beak. 


When we reached the river  

we pulled dimes from the silt 

The birds dipped their beaks 

in the mud and coated their feathers 


We culled and collected 

They kettled and keened  


There she told me about the marvel that becomes revealed, then concealed, at the span of a  ripple. The crescent of our shapes. How the ways we are haunted appear in the water. Something akin to a passing, something untamed to be wild. Her black-haired angel, gown soaked and sleeves slapping against the water like a marvelous bird.

#262 — Fall 2020