Bruce Lader Poetry of Witness Award
I think often about what it means to live in the Information Age, particularly now at a time when getting news (or opinions or snapshots of your meal) seems to take precedence over accuracy or consequence. I think about what it means to bear witness – to decide, “I will stand with you. Watch with you. I will not let this be forgotten.”
A part of me wants to share now about Darnella Frazier, and how George Floyd’s murderer would have gone free had it not been for her witness.
I want to tell you about the Christmas that no one did end up standing in the kitchen with my Great Aunt Ruth, on what turned out to be the last night she made her mother’s famous biscuits, and now the recipe is lost to the family forever.
What I need to tell you is this: the poet’s job is to bear witness. To focus our attention on things large and small – all that ultimately shapes us. The Bruce Lader Poetry of Witness Award, judged by Ashlee Haze, is for poems of any form and style that address contemporary events or issues. Poems in this category will bear witness to that which concerns you, which disgusts or inspires, scares or emboldens, uplifts or fills you with despair. Our window on the world is bigger than ever. We have more information than we could ever need. What will choose to bear witness to? What will you not let us forget?
That’s all from me, but do take a moment to read Haze’s bio before you go; check out the 2021 Bruce Lader winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and in lieu of a poem, I thought I’d share a review of Crossing the Rift, a collection of work by NC poets bearing witness to the tragedy of September 11th.
Ashlee Haze is a poet and spoken word artist from Atlanta by way of Chicago. She is the host of Moderne Philosophy, an educational podcast for creatives and modern thinkers. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and media outlets, including work recently published in the May issue of Poetry Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Georgia State University and spends her time innovating ways to tell the stories not often told.