Poem about Tree of Life synagogue massacre wins Doolin poetry prize

Poem about masculine vulnerability wins Doolin poetry video competition


This is the poem by Matt Hohner,which was chosen by poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin as the winner of the Doolin poetry competition, part of Doolin Writers’ Weekend.

A Poet Sits Down to Write After a Massacre
Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 27, 2018
“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”
–Theodor Adorno

Big Boys Don't Cry

The dead keep piling up and all I have are poems
to wrap them in. Pockmarks across synagogue walls
are a new font in a familiar language I refuse to utter.
Men have begun again to speak in tongues syntaxed
by phonemes of caliber and clip capacity: diction I
will not assemble into sentences; sounds I cannot make
into words. What color, the stripes being woven like old
narratives into new camp pajamas? How many stars
asterisk prayers into the bluest night? There is no
metaphor for what I cannot abide; no pentameter
for the sound of earth falling from the hands of love
into a freshly-filled grave. My iambs are a pair
of backwards-turned boots in the stirrups of a riderless
horse. We measure the inarticulate grammar of fear
in the steady metronome of newsfeed updates,
punctuate the lulls between carnage with promises
enjambed in the wind. Cover my eyes with verses
if you must. Bribe the ferryman with curses and dust.
A poet’s contract is blood-inked, bone-stamped,
ratified eternal at the frontier where hope kisses rust.

Matt Hohner, a Baltimore native, holds an MFA in writing and poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. He has been a finalist for the Moth International Poetry Prize and taken both third and first prizes in the Maryland Writers Association Poetry Prize. He won the 2016 Oberon Poetry Prize the 2018 Sport Literate Anything but Baseball Poetry Prize, and the Doolin Writers’ Weekend Poetry Prize. Hohner’s work has been published in numerous journals and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An editor for Loch Raven Review, Hohner’s book Thresholds and Other Poems, his first full-length book, was published by Apprentice House Press in Fall 2018. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland

Big Boys Don’t Cry, written and performed by Joe Byrne, was chosen by Dave Lordan as the winner of the Doolin Writers’ Weekend Poetry Video Competition 2019