SPLAY MY COUNTRY by Xandria Phillips


goods where

the umbra

where the nettle thicket

amass

I have forsaken

my view

of the cosmos

for sprawls

of ozone

-kissed teeth

this is how I feel

small and significant

when you blow me

over like topsoil

dusting a bulb

small enough to live

inside my mother

a piece of genetic

scrap metal

a prayer

another planet’s

sun dust

I meant nothing

and I still do

but now the nothing

comes disguised

as neon drowning orion

in blush every night

and another day

leaning back to die

against the skyline

this city is a mouth

forged around

every gaze bound

for the heavens

and I am begging it

to keep chanting

its black harmony

to open

wider still

What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?

I fluctuate in my feelings about and understanding of the term “emerging.” I of course appreciate when resources and publication spaces are created for young or new poets. At times I feel seen in my struggle, but often time “emerging” also feels coded to mean “wait your turn.”

Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?

I consider myself one who benefits from resources provided for emerging poets. That being said, there are a lot of other adjectives better describe what type of poet I am.

What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?

“Recognized” is very loaded and I'm hyper-aware of the difference between being seen and recognized. Recognition seems to usually involve major publications, awards, and grants.

How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?

The poetry community is heavily concerned with liberalism and diversity. While these ideologies may aim to do good, I think more often than not they fall short when it comes to amplifying poets who write from society's more precarious identities.

What does community mean to you?

Community is what got me through graduate school. It's people like Tafisha Edwards, who used to Skype with me until four in the morning when I was too sad to actually go out on a Saturday night. Community brings the world to me when I cannot access it myself.

XANDRIA PHILLIPS is a poet and visual artist from rural Ohio. Xandria has received fellowships from Oberlin College, Cave Canem, Callaloo, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, where they are the First Wave Poetry Fellow. Their poetry has been featured in American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Poets.Org, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Their first book, HULL was published by Nightboat Books in 2019.