Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Loved that piece of music you just heard? Support the programming you enjoy by becoming a WWFM member with your financial contribution today. Thank you!

Excerpts from the works of the 2023 Whiting Award winners

The 2023 Whiting Award winners were announced Wednesday night. Below are excerpts from their work.

Tommye Blount, Poetry

I

What a lucky beast I am,

when he cleans up nice

and nicks his perfect face.

I get to lick that face,

when he lets me.

In the cut's opening

I get a taste of him

from the inside

out, which is all I have

ever wanted,

to be cell-close

to him. Praise the razor's

overzealous arm;

the ease

with which it finds tenderness

in this man.

From "Fable of the Beast"

"The Lady Chablis as Herself"

Tommey, or however you spell your name, I

mean what I say. Like how them white boys think

Whitney or somebody's going to do The Lady. Nu-uh, I

have to be her in your little poem. Boy, I could almost

smack your face—who do you think you are? Look,

only I have the pipes to speak for The Lady. Good

drag is not just a dress and a wig. You got to put this in

The Lady's words right. Because she, above anything,

is my livelihood. Chile, I'm a kept woman as long as she lets

me keep this roof I'm under; my pans full of meat. Try

to be her and you will fail. I've got years on

you, Sugar Lump. You can't just go pull something

out of a closet. Only I can make good from all her ugly.

Excerpt from Fantastia for the Man in Blue by Tommye Blount. Copyright © 2020 by Tommye Blount. Used by permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

Tommye Blount grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is the author of the poetry collection Fantasia for the Man in Blue (2020) and the chapbook What Are We Not For (2016). Fantasia for the Man in Blue was a 2020 National Book Award Finalist in the Poetry category. Blount has been awarded scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Cave Canem, and Kresge Arts. He lives in Novi, Michigan.

Mia Chung, Drama

A male actor plays the roles of both THERESA and her son TIM. A second male actor plays the roles of both ROBERTA and her son ROBBIE.

ROBERTA Who is she?

THERESA She's... she's fine.

ROBERTA Uh oh

THERESA I only met her once. She's fine.

ROBERTA You met her once, they're engaged? Tim never said?

THERESA I'm his mother. Tim tells me last. Plus, I didn't get out to California enough.

ROBERTA I'd be a mess if Robbie moved out again, even across the street. But California? I don't know

how you stand it all these years. So when's / the

THERESA They haven't set a date yet. Tim wants to move back first.

ROBERTA Move back?!

THERESA Train distance, he says. Somewhere on the Northeastern corridor. He's looking at jobs.

ROBERTA When's he coming for dinner!?

THERESA I was hoping.

ROBERTA Took you long enough. Has he called Robbie? I'll make my meatballs!

THERESA He's bouncing around, interviews and—but weekends are good.

ROBERTA It's been too long since I really cooked. The place is a mess.

Tessie, you must be over the moon. All finally coming together.

THERESA Tim should really talk to Robbie. He's been away too long.

ROBERTA They love him out there, who wouldn't? But he's coming home now. With a girl!

THERESA I'm worried she'll be a fish out of water.

ROBERTA When do we meet her? When're they movin'?

THERESA Not now. Soon. We'll see. They're waiting to see if Mingjung can transfer jobs.

ROBERTA puts down her cookie.

ROBERTA What's her name?

THERESA Minjung.

ROBERTA Theresa.

THERESA sips tea.

THERESA She's in architecture, works for a big firm out there

ROBERTA (indicating the under-eye skin) Those dark circles, no wonder.

THERESA But she might give it up and teach.

ROBERTA You seen her only once?

THERESA Tim never said any—why would I think

ROBERTA Such a rush.

THERESA My brain's exploded.

ROBERTA I knew it: how far gone is she?

***

TIM Tell me something, Rob.

ROBBIE Shoot.

TIM Do you know who you are?

ROBBIE Uh, I mean, like yeah, uh sure... I think, I mean I think I do.

TIM And do you, like—d'you like who you are?

ROBBIE No. Definitely not.

TIM Then you want to change yourself.

ROBBIE Sure, yeah

TIM But then would you know yourself?

ROBBIE I see where you're—like hopefully not, right?

I mean, the goal's to, like, to change yourself, to be different.

TIM Right.

But then: how will you know it's the right self?

ROBBIE ...

Getting a little weird for me, Tim.

TIM Yeah, I know, who the fuck knows.

I've no idea who I am.

Excerpt from Catch as Catch Can by Mia Chung. Copyright © 2023 by Mia Chung. All rights reserved.

Mia Chung's plays include: Catch as Catch Can (Playwrights Horizons, 2022; Page 73, 2018); Ball in the Air (NAATCO/Public Theater, 2022); Double Take (Playwrights Horizons Almanac 2021); This Exquisite Corpse (multiple awards); You for Me for You (Royal Court, National Theatre Company of Korea, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, multiple regionals; published by Bloomsbury Methuen). Awards, commissions, residencies include: Clubbed Thumb, Hedgebrook, Helen Merrill, Huntington, Loewe Award in Music-Theatre, MTC/Sloan, NYTW, Playwrights' Center/Jerome, Playwrights Horizons/Steinberg Charitable Trust Commission, Playwrights Realm, South Coast Rep, SPACE/Ryder Farm. She is an alum of Ma-Yi Writers Lab and New Dramatists.

Ama Codjoe, Poetry

After a Year of Forgetting

Now I will learn how to tie an apron and unclasp

my bra from behind. I will become hard,

like a moss-covered rock. I'll be stiff as a nightgown

dried on the line. When the pond freezes over, I'll walk

to its center and lie face up until it is May

and I am floating. I'll become an anchor

pitched skyward. I will steer chiseled ships,

spinning fortune's splintered wheel. I will worry

over damp stones. I will clean ash

from the Madonna's cheek using the wet

rag of my tongue. I'll make myself shrine-like

and porcelain; I will stand still as a broken clock.

I will be sore from lovemaking. I will become so large,

my hair, loosened, will be mistaken for the swallow's cave.

After June, there is a year of forgetting, after the forgetting,

antlers adorn the parlor walls. Then it snows, and I'll be

coarse. I'll be soft as my mother's teeth. I'll be sugar crystals

and feathery snow. I'll be fine. I will melt.

I will make children from office paper. They'll be cut

from my stomach wearing blank faces. Bald

and silent, they will come out of me: triplicates

holding hands. I will smooth their foreheads

with a cool iron. I will fold the tepid laundry, turn down

the sheets, then sleepwalk along the Mississippi

until it is ocean and I'm its muddy saint. I will baptize

myself in silt and December. I will become

a pungent, earthly bulb. I'll pillar to salt. I'll remember

the pain of childbirth, remember being born.

****

There is a scar near my right eye no lover ever noticed

or kissed, a faint mark: split skin sewn.

And so, and now, there was never a before. Never

a time when the wind did not smell of dust

or storm or brine or blood. Never an hour when I entered

a field of bluebells without trampling at least one flower.

And so, and then, on the day I was born, a stampede

of horses filled my chest. Astronomers can only guess

how the universe formed. The planet is dying:

the horses, the mothers, the farmers, the bees. I am

the ground, its many grasses and wild clover.

My teeth grow yellow, ache, decay. I wash a plate,

polishing the moon's face—both will outlast my brutal

hands. And so, in the minutes of after, the moon drips

on a silver rack and the plate floats, cracked with age,

in outer space . . . a stray soapsud sparkles then bursts.

Excerpt from Bluest Nude by Ama Codjoe (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2022). Copyright © 2022 by Ama Codjoe. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org

Ama Codjoe is the author of Bluest Nude, finalist for a 2023 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry. She is also the author of Blood of the Air, winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Codjoe's poems have twice appeared in the Best American Poetry series. Her honors include a 2017 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award, a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship, and a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship.

Marcia Douglas, Fiction

A prophet is never recognized in his own country, especially when that country has fallen into the mouths of dragons. Bob waves to a woman in a BMW across the street. It's his lawyer, Christine. "Is me, Bob!" She closes the tinted windows and weaves through traffic. There was a time when BMW stood for Bob Marley and the Wailers. He thinks of the foolishness of that now.

He returns to the park, searching for the boy from the night before. He wants to shine his shoes again, to see the light in his eyes from Africa reflected there. In the daylight, the park is different from how he remembered it, but the boy's tree still leans, and there's a man selling peanuts and asham.

"You see the little youth that sleep inna the park?"

"Which one?"

"The one with the play-play guitar."

"Oh, me remember him. Him in juvenile detention! Is a bad youth."

"No. Me see him last night."

"Him kill a Chinie man in August town. Man-slaughter."

It doesn't make sense. Bob has a feeling that he has stepped into the middle of someone's dream. The fall-down skin itches and there is a dull pain behind his eyes. An idea comes to him.

"You know Bob Marley?"

"Yeah?"

"What if me tell you him come back?"

"Yu mad like. Mind I don't call Bellevue Madhouse on you. Move!"

"Just listen me, nuh? Is me, Bob. Bob Marley."

"Reel out a tune fi me." The man laughs and leans back against the wall. Bob sings a familiar chorus, but the sound that comes out is like scratched vinyl.

"Move!" the man says. And this time there is fear in his eyes.

The prophet holds up his arms and backs away, crossing the street with the flow of pedestrians. On the other side, three brethren are reasoning outside Aquarius Recording Studio:

"As far as I&I concern, is Marcus Garvey the first Rastafari," says the long-beard one.

"Garvey prophesy and pave the path, but him was not Rasta," says the one with the yellow tam. "Garvey say, Look to Africa for the crowning of a black king. Him prophesy His Imperial Majesty, Haile I, but that don't make him Rasta."

"Rasta is a mysterious thing, is a thing of the heart. Some people Rasta and them don't even know them is Rasta." The short one eats a tangerine.

"Can a man deny His Imperial Majesty and still be Rasta?"

"Not even His Majesty-self admit he is Jah."

"And what is the meaning of Jah to I&I?"

Bob pauses at the curb. "Haile Selassie/is the chapel," he sings.

Taken aback by the scratched voice, the three men turn and stare at the tall-tall Ras with the brass Africas.

"Haile Selassie/is the chapel/All the world/should know — And a cathedral too. Selassie is cathedral too," Bob says.

"Yes-I," the breddren say together, dread-awe and one accord, watching the percussion earrings.

Bob keeps on walking down the road. He stops at a corner, still singing in scratched vinyl. I search and I search/Sacred book of life. A small group of children gather to hear the madman sing.

"Is a radio him have in him throat," says one.

Excerpt from The Marvellous Equations of the Dread copyright © 2016 by Marcia Douglas. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Marcia Douglas is the author of The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim, Notes from a Writer's Book of Cures and Spells and Madam Fate as well as a poetry collection, Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom. Her fiction, essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The New York Review of Books, Bomb Magazine, World Literature Today, and in anthologies such as Kingston Noir, Jubilation: 50 Years of Jamaican Poetry Since Independence, Queen's Case: Jamaican Literature, and more. She has been recipient of awards and fellowships from the NEA and Creative Capital and teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Sidik Fofana, Fiction

Now they on Shakespeare in Mr. Broderick's class. They readin that one with all the fairies runnin thru the forest sprinklin love juice on each other. Mr. Broderick tell the kids it's a comedy and that mean everybody gonna be hitched up by the end of it, but to me there's nothin funny about people gettin married. If anything, it's serious and involve cryin.

Who would like to read Puck? Mr. Broderick ask.

Me, me, me, Kimberly say.

All right, Kimberly is Puck, he say. Who would like to read Titania?

When no one else raise they hand, Kimberly say me, me, me again.

You already have Puck's lines.

I can handle two parts.

Fine.

Kimberly, who think she some kinda spellin bee champ, raise her hand to read Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena, but Mr. Broderick, he go ahead and nix her and substitute some roles for hisself cuz he said he was a thespian in high school and everybody should have some good Shakespeare under they belt. He go ahead and pick Cassius to read, too, tryna show me he a great teacher, but everybody know Cassius read one word every five minutes and the teacher usually gotta stand over his shoulder and say, The, and he say, The, and then, Frog, and he say, Frog, and then, Jumped, and he say, Jumped. So I'm flippin thru one of the Shakespeare books and I go, Mr. Broderick, Imma help him out. And Mr. Broderick go, I would like to see him practice on his own, thank you very much. I go, Now doin that would be plain old— I stop myself. If it wasn't for Ms. Chalmers and her verbal warnins, I would have said plain old stupid.

Kimberly there pronouncin her thines and thous. She all into herself like she need to be smacked back down. Meanwhile Mr. Broderick start waxin off on how this play is all about how the father wouldn't let the daughter marry who she wanted so she had to sneak behind his back. And for a second I wish I went to school like Mr. Broderick instead of hangin around Harlem goin la-la-la. The kids don't understand a word he sayin except they know he sayin suttin smart. Ay Dawan raise his hand and go, Mr. Broderick, you went to Harvard right, and Mr. Broderick go, Sure did, and Ay Dawan scratch his temple like he tryna figure suttin out. The rest of the class is like, What, what, Ay Dawan, just ask your damn question and stop scratchin your damn head, you idiot. And finally he go, Mr. Broderick, if you went to Harvard, how come you not somewhere makin a million dollars on a spaceship somewhere? Then it's like somebody pressed the shush button and the rest of the class go quiet.

Mr. Broderick say, Because, because—and before he give one of them typical answers about helpin people and givin back, I see his Adam's apple rise up in his neck like an elevator, and realize Ay Dawan went somewhere he wasn't supposed to go.

Excerpt from Stories from the Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana. Copyright © 2022 by Sidik Fofana. Used by permission of Scribner Books. All rights reserved.

Sidik Fofana was a 2018 Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow. His work has appeared in the Sewanee Review. His debut novel, Stories from the Tenants Downstairs, was published by Scribner. Sidik Fofana earned an MFA from New York University. He lives with his wife and son in New York City where he is a public school teacher.

Carribean Fragoza, Fiction

"This whole time we've had your back, we took care of you. You've been our girl because you needed us. Here, we take care of each other because no one else will. That's what the Vicious Ladies is all about. Our fathers ain't taking care of us. Our mothers aint taking care of us. No one knows what we need like we do. All we got is each other. I'm going to take care of my girls and they're going to take care of me. That's all I know."
"Yeah but selling kids noz is not taking care of anybody."
"And you care about taking care of others?" She smiled. "Girl, you are like me. I know that you're looking for answers, something to believe in, something to save you. And I'm telling you, because I know, that there ain't no such thing. This is where you came from, this is where you grew up, this is where you came back and this is who you'll be. There's no way around it."
"What do you want?" I asked. I really wanted to know.
"The same thing you do. Why do you think I want you around? Let me ask you, what do you want?"
"To get out of this fucking place."
"Do you really? Why are you here now? You didn't have to come back."
"You don't understand what it's like."
"What it's like to be what? To be smart? To look for your place in the world and not find it? Don't give me that. Girl, the truth is, you never really left. You think I didn't see you marching around the neighborhood every weekend waving around your little attitude. Or rolling on that bike like you were checking up on your very own little empire. It was cute. Kinda. In an old-school-homie way. Except it was you, a snotty skinny thing acting like she owned the place just cuz she went to college. But we were always watching. At least I was. And I wasn't sure if I wanted to kick your ass or hug the shit out of you. Let me tell you, I been around a lot longer than you. I know the neighborhood and the people who live in it like I know my own self. Even the people I don't know, I know. That's how I knew you."
Samira leaned ever so slightly from her chair, toward me.
"I like you because you're mean." Her eyes narrowed and her smile spread with tremendous pleasure.
Mean? This bully of a woman who was running a drug business from my sick mother's house was telling me that I was mean.
"Yeah. You know what I'm talking about," she said grinning with teeth I'd never seen before. "You're mean, not like some of the Ladies. You don't go up to anyone's face and talk shit. You've never even been in a fight. But in a way, you're worse than any of them."
For the first time, I knew Samira was looking at me. Really looking at me.

Excerpt from Eat the Mouth that Feeds You by Carribean Fragoza. Copyright © 2021 by Carribean Fragoza. Used by permission of City Lights Publishers. All rights reserved.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Carribean Fragoza was raised in South El Monte, California. After graduating from UCLA, she completed the Creative Writing MFA Program at CalArts. Fragoza is the founder of South El Monte Arts Posse, an interdisciplinary arts organization, and Vicious Ladies, a website publishing womxn, queer, and non-binary critics of color. She co-edits UC Press's California cultural journal Boom California. Fragoza's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Zyzzyva, Alta, BOMB, and elsewhere. Fragoza is the Coordinator of the Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Award at Claremont Graduate University and lives in San Gabriel Valley, California.

Kikuo Johnson, Fiction

Excerpt from<em> No One Else</em> by R. Kikuo Johnson.
/ Fantagraphics
/
Fantagraphics
Excerpt from No One Else by R. Kikuo Johnson.
<em>No One Else</em> by R. Kikuo Johnson.
/ Fantagraphics
/
Fantagraphics
No One Else by R. Kikuo Johnson.

Excerpt from No One Else by R. Kikuo Johnson. Copyright © 2021 by R. Kikuo Johnson. Used by permission of Fantagraphics. All rights reserved.

Kikuo Johnson is a cartoonist and illustrator born in Maui, Hawaii. His drawings regularly appear on the cover of The New Yorker and in advertisements for companies like Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola. Johnson divides his time drawing in Brooklyn, teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design, and living with his family in Hawaii. On its fifteenth anniversary, a new edition of his debut graphic novel, Night Fisher, was published by Fantagraphics in 2021. His most recent book, the graphic novella No One Else won the 2022 LA Times Book Prize.

Linda Kinstler, Nonfiction

In the 1990s, a particular genre of rumour began to spread in Riga. This was the 'agent' story, a kind of story that sought to ferret out those who had collaborated with the Soviet organs, to name names, to bring them to account. The Soviet Union officially collapsed in December 1991, six months after I was born. I never have to wonder how many years it has been since this monumental event: I am exactly as old as the Soviet Union is dead. For those who lived through it, its demise was unimaginable yet anticipated, inexplicable yet hyper-explained. Everyone had a theory, everyone wanted to claim authority over the fickle hand of fate. It wasn't just the nation of the USSR that had vanished − it was also the Soviet conception of history and time, of achievement, happiness, success and selfhood. The immediate post-Soviet environment was one in which there 'was a surfeit of descriptions and diagnoses of social change; there were numerous equally comprehensive and plausible yet apparently mutually exclusive conceptions of the same events', according to the anthropologist Caroline Humphrey. Th is 'diagnostic oversaturation, together with the collapse of Cold War certainties,' she writes, led to the emergence of a certain kind of paranoia, a suspicion of everyone and everything, a belief that 'nothing is done by chance', that the whole truth can be rooted out, discovered, possessed.
For the first time it was possible for individuals to look inside the archives of the KGB and its predecessors and partners; lists of former collaborators began to circulate, and neighbours began swapping stories about what they discovered. Powerful myths about the nature of collaboration began to emerge: that only those who were 'morally deficient, who can now be blamed', collaborated; that 'everyone had a secret file; that justice amounts to assigning blame; that agents had committed more wicked transgressions than party officials; and that informants were victims themselves'. There was a furied interest in identifying the agents of the former regime, and for good reason. Latvia, like other newly independent nations, wanted a clean start. Latvians wanted to celebrate their own heroes for the first time in over seventy years, and to punish their former oppressors. The trouble was that these categories were hardly clear cut; as Václav Havel put it, 'the fundamental lines of conflict run right through each person'. These lines were thick, tangled, knotted. They would not be easily unravelled.
But the rumours had long been swirling. The collapse just meant that, all of a sudden, there was some hope that the truth would come to light. 'The suspicion was always there – nobody ever believed anybody during Soviet times,' my mother tells me, when I ask her about this era. 'Yes, it is true that almost everyone had a file. Yes, the agents were everywhere. Yes, the informants were victims themselves. I can tell you all this.' She doesn't like my 'academic' approach to understanding the conditions of her own life. She doesn't like being made to feel like a specimen.
The truth is that she had always lived among rumours. They were a fact of life − she breathed them in along with Riga's salty sea air. She hadn't known that she was Jewish, until one day someone called her an evreyka, a Jew, in the courtyard, and she went upstairs to ask her parents what that meant. The family religion was communism; the rest my mother would have to intuit.

Excerpt from Come to This Court and Cry by Linda Kinstler. Copyright © 2022 by Linda Kinstler. Used by permission of PublicAffairs Books. All rights reserved.

Linda Kinstler is a contributing writer for Jewish Currents and The Economist's 1843 Magazine, and the deputy editor of The Dial. Her writing has been cited by the International Court of Justice and has inspired documentaries. Kinstler's work appears in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Wired, and more. Come to This Court and Cry: How the Holocaust Ends is her first nonfiction book. She is currently completing a Ph.D in the Rhetoric Department at U.C. Berkeley, where her dissertation is a legal genealogy of oblivion.

Stephania Taladrid, Nonfiction

The handoff was planned for late afternoon on a weekday, at an underused trailhead in a Texas park. The young woman carrying the pills, whom I'll call Anna, arrived in advance of the designated time, as was her habit, to throw off anyone who might try to use her license plates to trace her identity. She felt slightly absurd in her disguise—sun hat, oversized sunglasses, plain black mask. But the pills in her pocket were used to induce abortions, and in Texas, her home state, their distribution now required such subterfuge, along with burner phones and the encrypted messaging app Signal. Since late June, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Texas and thirteen other states had effectively banned abortion, and more were sure to follow. In some of the states, laws that originated as far back as the nineteenth century had been restored. Providing the tools for an abortion in Texas had become a felony that could lead to years in prison, and a fellow-citizen could sue Anna and collect upward of ten thousand dollars for every abortion she was found to abet.

Anna wasn't a fainthearted woman—someone who had recently approached her for pills noted her "cottage-core vibes" and steely calm—but she wasn't reckless, either. She and other women defying abortion bans had turned to a model developed by Verónica Cruz, a prominent Mexican activist. Until last year, abortion was considered a crime in most of Mexico, the second-biggest Catholic country in the world, and women there had become adept at providing safe abortions in secrecy. (Given the legal exposure, pseudonyms have been used for Anna and other American women who let me into their underground networks.)

By the time the pregnant woman for whom Anna was waiting walked up, the trailhead was quiet enough to make the chirping of birds seem jarring. As Anna pulled a plastic bag of pills from her pocket and settled across from the pregnant woman at a picnic table, she registered the fear on the woman's face. Her distress, as Anna understood it, was less about a breach of Texas law than about the possibility that her husband, who was violent, might find out what she was doing. Hands shaking, the woman told Anna that she was already raising three children and had been trying to save enough money to remove them from a dangerous home. The prospect of having another child, she said, was like "getting a death sentence." She couldn't vanish from her household for a day without explanation, travel to a state where abortion is legal, and pay seven hundred dollars to a doctor for a prescription. Anna's pills, which were free, were her best option. Taking the baggie and some instructions on how to take the medication, the woman thanked Anna and fled the park, hoping that her husband would never realize she'd been gone.

Excerpt from "The Post-Roe Abortion Underground," The New Yorker, October 17, 2022 by Stephania Taladrid. Copyright © 2022 by Stephania Taladrid. All rights reserved.

Stephania Taladrid is a contributing writer at The New Yorker, where she covers Latino communities across the United States. She has written on topics ranging from the2020 Presidential election to themass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. In 2021, Taladrid reported and produced "American Scar," a short documentary on the environmental implications of the border wall, which received a special mention from the jury at the film festival DOC NYC. Last year, Taladrid covered the overturning ofRoe v. Wade for the magazine, producing a series ofinvestigative stories on the end of the abortion-rights era. Taladrid is a recipient of the American Society of Magazine Editors Next Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by journalists under the age of 30.

Emma Wippermann, Poetry and Drama

MOM OF JOAN

You can't wear your brothers' old clothes forever, Joan

JOAN

Why not

they'll always have old clothes

MOM OF JOAN

Because it represents a non-choice

JOAN

I'm choosing them!

MOM OF JOAN

No, you are submitting

to the choices of your brothers

who first chose to wear the clothes

and then chose to get rid of them

JOAN

The Angels say—

MOM OF JOAN

—I know I know

that capitalism is bad

JOAN

Well actually it's mostly

the internet that says that

the Angels say—and

I don't really get it but—

they say that "my image will be

both the apex and the end of me"

MOM OF JOAN

Wow, ok...

but honey

they also said you need new clothes

[sees something in the distance]

Hey, I have an idea

JOAN

No more ideas!

They all lead to the destruction of God's planet!!

MOM OF JOAN [walking over to the boy's section

and holding up a suit—a nice suit]

Try this on

JOAN

What

MOM OF JOAN

Try it

it's not going to fit right

but we'll get it tailored

JOAN

Mom

MOM OF JOAN

Ok, ok, I just thought—

JOAN

Mom

I really love it

Excerpt from Joan of Arkansas (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2023). Copyright © 2023 by Emma Wippermann. Used by permission of Ugly Duckling Presse. All rights reserved.

Emma Wippermann is the author of Joan of Arkansas (forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse) and Pleasure as a Series of Objects (Patient Sounds). Other work can be found in jubilat, Omniverse, Second Factory, Oversound, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Brown University and lives in New York City.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.