TQ5 Poetry Contest with notes by judge Amaud Jamaul Johnson

Amaud Jamaul Johnson

Meet our TQ5 Poetry Contest judge: Amaud Jamaul Johnson



St. Inside & Not by Aaron Coleman

I read the list of finalists aloud, alone, standing in my office. While there were many fine, well-polished poems, the music of Aaron Coleman’s “St. Inside & Not” followed me out of the room. The use of anaphora, heavy alliteration and assonance, the quirkiness of the syntax, the image system, all kept me off balance. I was under the spell of this poem. A poem should possess its own logic; establish a unique authority over the reader. From the first line, the poem takes you by the throat and turns. Reading “Being midnight ripped / off the face of constellation,” I thought of Dickinson’s “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off ...” Of course, I’ve never been able to divorce this sentiment from my lingering fear of racial violence. But I know Coleman’s lyric shatters us into song. I know this is poetry! Congratulations to the winner and the finalists.


Runners Up


Through by Aaron Coleman


The Doppler Effect by Erin Rodoni


The Next Life by Mark Wagenaar