Session Two Anthology

MENTOR: Danez Smith


“I guess by now I thought I’d be done with shame
...Done lying about what trails my throat
had charted. I practiced looking tall
men in the eye...” - Franny Choi 

I practiced      I stared straight ahead when walking    
belched loudly when someone shouted     Dyke!     from a passing car
A man touched himself while staring at me       I stared back
I threw up     I swam naked     I stuck my elbows out in a crowd    
I walked in dark streets alone      I proclaimed my body      I cried     
I chewed my fingers to keratin stubs      I bought a pomegranate    
opened it like a flower      burst the bleeding alveoli with my teeth
And still I was ravenous      I spit at those who would have me
be otherwise      I stole scraps of manifestos      posters from gay bars      
plastered them to my walls      slept in a nest of rented books       read ten
pages of each      then hurled their spines against the door       broke
a window       left angry blood splotches       told my landlord       it was that
time of month      hoped he would leave      hoped they would all leave
and I was so incredibly lonely       I sang my desire      wrapped myself
around all it clung to      and I clung


Alex Neff.jpg

Alex Neff graduated from Smith College with a BA in Political Science and French Studies. She is a recent Fulbright Scholar to Turkey and currently lives in Madison, WI. She loves bikes and snuggly dogs. 

Mother’s Blood

My lover tells me
his mother tried
to slice the apple
from his throat.
Ached to knife
the Adam out. 

It wasn’t her
fault, he says.
Women are lunch
lonely. Trained
to break
bodies with small
talk. Long
with blood.

He doesn’t want me
to cook. 
Each time
I reach for knife
He sees her
face in my

Most days
I'm scared
I see it too.


Kelly Grace Thomas .jpg

Kelly Grace Thomas is the winner of the 2017 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle, a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a Best of the Next nominee. BOAT/BURNED, her first full-length collection, is forthcoming from YesYes Books. Kelly’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: DIAGRAM, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, Sixth Finch, Muzzle, PANK and more. Kelly currently works to bring poetry to underserved youth as the Manager of Education and Pedagogy for Get Lit-Words Ignite. She is also the co-author of Words Ignite: Explore, Write and Perform, Classic and Spoken Word Poetry (Literary Riot). Kelly was a 2016 Fellow for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. She is the founder of FeministWrites, a creative collective that connects and champions feminist voices. She is currently a reader for Tinderbox Poetry Journal. She lives in Los Angeles. For more please visit


My ex-husband held on to me in a bathroom floor
as open palmed I spoke to dead poets–

a bottle of vodka had served as medium in the séance
my body a conduit.

And there is a romance to that type of alcoholism
wherein his arms wanted to hold me and I just wanted to run

because they were not really arms
but ropes–

I saw the tension begin to fray the fibers
and the threading begin to break before he did.

I learned how to tie a noose and fit it around my neck
in order to keep on breathing. This is how I learned to want. 

Friends tell me that they couldn’t tell that I was faking
my own death, it seemed so real. 

My body fit in the cupping of his hands
and his tongue dipped in me and I dripped between his fingers 

and then I wasn’t still water in cupped hands
I was black water torrents spilling from bottles. 

And here is where everything falls apart.
Blackouts become chinked memories

because he wasn't a tyrant but that is how I remember things
that is how my body remembers drinking 

everything he said until every glass was empty
and every bruise was earned.

but I don’t have a problem anymore, 

and I am hardly ever thirsty;
I can stop whenever I want to stop

wanting the noose around my neck,
feet kicking two inches above the ground.


Isabel Quintero.jpg

Isabel Quintero is a writer and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She was born, raised, and resides in the Inland Empire of Southern California. She earned her BA in English and her MA in English Composition at California State University, San Bernardino. Isabel also sits on on the board for a non-profit literary arts organization, PoetrIE. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces from Cinco Puntos Press, her first novel, is the recipient of several awards, including the 2015 William C. Morris Award for Debut YA Novel and the California Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adults. In addition, the book has been included on the Amelia Bloomer Project List of Recommended Feminist Reading for ages 0-18, is one of Booklist's Best Books of 2014, one of Kirkus’ Best Teen Books of 2014 among other lists. Her forthcoming chapter books, the first two in a series for young readers, Ugly Cat and Pablo, will be released in Spring 2017 from Scholastic, Inc. Her first graphic novel, Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, will be released by Getty Publications Fall 2017. In addition to writing fiction, she also writes poetry and her work can be found in The Great American Literary Magazine, Huizache, As/Us Journal, The Acentos Review, The Pacific Review, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @isabelinpieces or visit her website

juneteeth with cottonwood

it's raining cotton again, the trees
cry their veils to pieces again
& my lungs are my ancestors’ hands
everywhere i be, a field
i stroll around, ginning the air
i ain't breathing
i'm weaving
a freedom dress
o way back mothers!
you who wombs were the last free place
i am walking the road with no papers
i am getting in white folks’ way
i own my own inhale
i take these white gold clouds
the wind works from the branch
into my chest & fix you a gown
sharp enough to cut
a rug or a chain
or that white bastard's neck 

Danez Smith is the author of [insert] boy (2014, YesYes Books), winner of the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Their second collection, Don't Call Us Dead, will be published by Graywolf Press in 2017. They are also the author of two chapbooks, hands on ya knees and black movie, winner of the Button Poetry Prize. Their work has published and featured widely, including in Poetry Magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal, Buzzfeed, Blavity, & Ploughshares. They are a 2014 Ruth Lilly - Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow, a Cave Canem and VONA alum, and a recipient of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship. Danez is a two-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, placing second in 2014. They edit for The Offing are a founding member of two collectives, Dark Noise and Sad Boy Supper Club. Danez lives in the midwest most of the time. 
Danez was featured in the American Academy of Poet's Emerging Writers Series by National Book Award Finalist Patricia Smith. Like her, Danez bridges the poetics of the stage to that of the page. Danez's work transcends arbitrary boundaries to present work that is gripping, dismantling of oppression constructs, and striking on the human heart. Often centered around intersections of race, class, sexuality, faith, and social justice, Danez uses rhythm, fierce raw power, and image to re-imagine the world as takes it apart in their work.