The Poetry Project


Michael Chang

The Poetry Project is proud to announce the third 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.

We were honored to welcome Cedar Sigo as this year’s prize judge. Sigo selected Michael Chang as this year’s prize recipient, and had the following to share about Michael’s work:

I chose these poems for their film like flow and beautifully encrypted collisions. I love how this voice seems hell-bent on talking back to our captors. It can move from wet and lush to syllabically strict almost instantaneously. Our times have been shrunken down into glimmering, twisted artifacts that demand to be sounded out.

Cedar also uplifted the notable works of Alisha Dietzman and Kamelya Omayma Youssef.


so : so : ur extraordinary :

like a sunset caring what comes next

ur the prince who makes it thru the forest

body unscathed : pretty face untouched

thank god for photosynthesis

i spray ur cologne on my knuckles : smell u on my fingers :

any ol’ plant won’t do

we make grunting noises : ppl stay away

u leap : lose ur stripes

some things u can’t ever publish

white ppl would sooner notice bush & thistle than see us :

that’s how i lived in the american for 7 days

which got me thinking :

i want to hang out on a cloud with u :

somewhere undisturbed & unfound

the two of us : there : unmarked :

not blinking at all :

no one ever treat u so right


Darlin’, in your wildest dreams, you never had a clue”—Quarterflash

a frock, gold thread, white trim like a stab of light
pony-hair slippers, prim & proper

i know i was passing notes to u in class
but for the life of me i can’t remember what they said

confucius was confused
the body needs rest & jesus

the only thing i’ve lost is my mind
too perfect a memory—too much of a good thing

u remember all the slights & hiccups & blemishes
the deepest cuts & the hardest words

mo’nique said real womxn sacrifice
so harden ur heart (i am)

i insist on calling it “airbb”
even lawyers click thru service agreements w/o reading

what would u fit in a snowglobe
a nice town, farm animals as glorious pets

the only thing i’ll butcher is pronunciation
may or may not be sexual but who’s to say

counterintuitive but i would love to fit a safari in mine
safaris r not okay irl but permissible in the context of a snowglobe

i think i like cheetahs
lightning bugs & fireflies r the same creature

ur two parts fuccboi one part imitation soy
ur department store i’m bodega

i give u rhyme—u give me reason
who r all these ppl


Only thing I’m not / is sorry”—Demi Lovato

i like european boys b/c then i know exactly why i don’t understand them

nah, that’s just something i say

lift ur shirt

flash us ur skin

release those fluids

i don’t know abt exit wounds or the night sky

i’m more concerned with entering shit

ur a maze i’m stuck in

i get into situations w/o figuring how to get out

ur a lot more than infinity

funny how ppl say until their heart stops they will do this or that

seems like too much responsibility for a heart

isn’t it typical for a poet to ruminate over the heart’s importance

as if it were some mechanical device working in fits & starts

i guess it’s really game over when the widget stops

u serial dater with emails out the wazoo

yea that explains these sticky fingers & why ur mad at me

but hang on

i smell u on my pillow even tho u’ve never been here

tell me this: who is riding michael knight

& are we the future of poetry?

#265 — Summer 2021