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This is not a poem
this is not abject emotion burnt by thumb to screen or
fashioned like wrought iron above storefronts

This is about those children that come in yelling
and we’re inside selling poetry to 9-year-olds
hawking colonialised haiku
cinquains for the Fortnite generation
acrostics for a language now too elastic for new names and newer voices

This is about those children that come in yelling
this is about those children with everything to say
without knowing what to say
about what to write, or how to write, or what is wrong
because everything is wrong and it still is wrong
and we’re not fixing it

I’ve been teaching for a decade and I’m still not selling it, we’re not selling it
our spreadsheets aren’t selling it either, our data,
and our money
and our funding is not selling it

We’ve been running at a loss and I’m sorry
one year is not long enough anymore


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This poem was highly commended for Poetry Object 2018

Judge's notes:
The most striking aspect of ‘Newer Voices’ is its impassioned vision. Repetition and rhyme are used judiciously throughout, drawing attention to the centres of the poem: ‘the children that come in yelling’, who have ‘everything to say / without knowing what to say’, and the futile and tired old act of ‘selling’—whether of ‘colonialised haiku’ or insularity and ignorance.
This is an urgent and convincing call for action and change— ‘because everything is wrong and it is still wrong / and we’re not fixing it’—and a petition to the reader to listen to, and make room for, ‘new names and newer voices’.

~ Bella Li, Judge, Poetry Object 2018
Watch our Poetry Object 2018 Winning Poems Animation
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvzpzwhQsx8