Award Winners

George Bogin Memorial Award - 2022

Ina Cariño

Naming the Silences in the Mouth

the one that praises the slanted mountains

the one reserved for holy nights, like when you stayed up till dawn reading poems about home

the one sugared over, the ripest fruit from your grandfather’s tree pouched in your cheek

the sullen one, like a child in the corner after skipping piano lessons at the convent

the one that’s always there when people talk about the war

the one that wants to disappear when people don’t talk about the war at all

the one that plugs itself into your lungs when you leave a country for good

the one you use to be impolite with strangers

the one you’ve gotten too used to

the one that sounds uglier than crying

the one when your grandmother died alone

the curious one when your tongue lost its English as you saw snow for the first time

the one when you forget how old you are after being asked

the one that says no

the one that says yes, I remember this song

the awed one, witness to how even a muddy manmade lake can be beautiful in the light

the breathless one after you wake from a dream about falling

the one hovering snug over friends at a warm table

the one that says I’m just like you

the quiet-thrum that blankets your buzzing lips when you stop shouting

the quiet-hum that follows after you whisper to the chickens in the backyard

the one as you listen to static on a phone working to connect, until finally, you hear the voice of someone you love

the one that says look up, I see you, it's me

Mai Der Vang on Ina Cariño

These remarkable poems pulse with richness of detail and unforgettable images. The series of looping sonnets and anaphora-based poems together create a powerful incantatory effect that move the language-self through a state of healing. I am grateful for the questions these poems bring to mind: in a country where an outsider or “othered” individual is expected to behave as and fit in with Americans, how then does that person make room for who they really are? What is the work involved in remembering one’s name while honoring who one is on the outside? The speaker in these poems remind us that to plant roots into the future, one must reach back to the ancestral. All is connected and impacts the other, from subtle changes in the moon, to death tolls and the anguish of staying alive, from the howling of one’s home country, to finding the light of oneself in unlit spaces, from a country that boasts freedom while caging citizens in debt, to a renewal and rebirth of lineage. This is a speaker who senses the precariousness of life all around, and one who recognizes that reclamation of love for oneself is perhaps the first step to undoing an empire. Home is not always defined as a place but as a moment in time, a memory of childhood. Here in these lines, there is room to hear the silences, the lost syllables, and all that remains unsaid and waiting to be said.