poem index


Emily Skaja

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Emily Skaja. Photo credit: Sarah Rose Nordgren.
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.


by this poet


In March I drop an egg hoping a bird will fly out disbelieving
science. All the manuals tell me this is a logical contract.
You commit yourself to a shell & you end up flying. Fine.


Soldier for a lost cause, brute, mute woman
written out of my own story, I’ve been trying
to cast a searchlight over swamp-woods & parasitic ash
back to my beginning, that girlhood—
kite-wisp clouded by gun salutes & blackbirds
tearing out from under


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