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About this poet

Emily Skaja was born and raised in northern Illinois. She received an MFA in creative writing from Purdue University.
 
Her debut poetry collection, Brute, was selected by Joy Harjo as the winner of the 2018 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets, and will be published by Graywolf Press in 2019.
 
About Brute, Harjo writes:
 
Brute, though a collection of singular poems, is essentially one long elegiac howl for the end of a relationship. It never lets up—this living—even when the world as we knew it is crushed. So what do we do with the brokenness? We document it, as Emily Skaja has done in Brute. We sing of the brokenness as we emerge from it. We sing the holy objects, the white moths that fly from our mouths, and we stand with the new, wet earth that has been created with our terrible songs.
 

In 2019, she was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Skaja is also the recipient of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Intro Journals Project Award; the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize; the Russell Prize from Two Sylvias Press; and the Thomas H. Scholl and Elizabeth Boyd Thompson Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets.

She is the associate poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review and a Taft research fellow at the University of Cincinnati, where she is finishing a PhD in creative writing and literature with a certificate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

Four Hawks

circle the same mile of Indiana where I force myself to look

at every dead deer on the road, as if that braces me, as if I believe
it will protect me from losing anything good.

I can’t stop dreaming I’m hiding

my own prints in the snow, convinced
my mouth is a metal trap, a part of it, apart

from you, & when you pull me awake
it’s because I’m lining my body with burrs,

because I’m antlers & talons & I know

the smell of cedar is home, is a ring of sky
I love, but I can’t take it when

you say Only deer, only hawks.

Why is there nothing wild in you
to explain it, nothing killing; why

am I the chased thing horrified
to overtake myself in the brush I wonder &

if a deer darts across this road & the dead don’t
take it, don’t the dead wait, don’t I know,

don’t the dead always covet something running?

I count bodies like cold days in March.

Ten, eleven, twelve—& you
with the map unfolded, following the sky.

I wonder if you & I are twin limbs
of something running.

If you & I circle.

Copyright © 2018 by Emily Skaja. Used with the permission of the author.

Copyright © 2018 by Emily Skaja. Used with the permission of the author.

Emily Skaja. Photo credit: Sarah Rose Nordgren.

Emily Skaja

Emily Skaja's debut poetry collection, Brute, was selected by Joy Harjo as the winner of the 2017 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

Anyone can be a plank-mouthed bird or anyone can be the sky hallelujah
is the accepted lie of hymns. Like a girl walking has never needed to fly

but could if she wanted. If winged & if the wings fit—if fielded, if