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WOMAN AND WALL

English-language poem by international authors  (adult), judged by poet Tishani Doshi

 

Winner

"Woman and Wall" by Mohammed Issiakhem

Unasked, a question mark
curls within the walls
of my body. This self-doubling 


this haunting. Small hands
press to the bars
of my ribs. Blue shimmers 


through us—it is almost day
or nearly night. These walls
are the town’s violet limits


bristling with storks.
I used to be glad
I wasn’t a boy, no need to fight 


or decide what to be.
Now I have two hearts, four hands
leached from bone 


leaving me toothless,
cheeks feather grey.
This wall is covered in 


names—it should be easy
to choose one.
Hunched in half-light, 


the storks clack beaks
with their chicks, a hard
kind of love in dirty nests.

On "Woman and wall",  judge Tishani Doshi said:

“The assurance with which the poem moves and shifts registers impressed me. There’s a mirroring aspect throughout, in the body the poem describes, as well as the language used to describe that body. The poet seems intent on showing us the constraints—whether it’s the 'bars of my ribs' or 'the town’s violet limits,' but is also contrasting these with a kind of emancipation, an opening—'blue shimmers through us.' There is insistence in this poem, of being alive, of giving life. The last stanza and that final image of the storks clacking beaks—the 'hard/ kind of love in dirty nests'—devastated me. This is the voice of a poet who understands both beauty and restraint, using empty space in the poem not just to offer breath, but to hint at unspoken things.”

The Barjeel Poetry Prize celebrates poetry, in Arabic and English, that opens a worldwide conversation with 20 selected Arab artworks from the Barjeel Art Foundation. This is one of the 12 poems that won first and second place in the inaugural Barjeel Poetry Prize 2020, judged by distinguished poets. Click here for more information about the Prize at Barjeel Art Foundation's website.

Contributor
Charlotte Eichler

Charlotte Eichler lives and works in West Yorkshire. Her poems have appeared in magazines including PN Review, The Rialto and Stand. A selection of her work is forthcoming in Carcanet’s New Poetries VIII anthology and her debut pamphlet, Their Lunar Language, was published by Valley Press in 2018.

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<span style="caret-color: #555555; color: #555555; font-family: adelle-sans, sans-serif;">Charlotte Eichler </span><span style="caret-color: #555555; color: #555555; font-family: adelle-sans, sans-serif;">lives and works in West Yorkshire. Her poems have appeared in magazines including <em>PN Review</em>, <em>The Rialto</em> and <em>Stand</em>. A selection of her work is forthcoming in </span><span style="caret-color: #555555; color: #555555; font-family: adelle-sans, sans-serif;">Carcanet’s <em>New Poetries VIII</em> anthology</span><span style="caret-color: #555555; color: #555555; font-family: adelle-sans, sans-serif;"> and her debut pamphlet, <em>Their Lunar Language</em>, was published by <em>Valley Press</em> in 2018.</span>

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