Winner, 2021 Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize

BETWEEN EVERY BIRD, OUR BONES is reverence amidst ruin.

These poems articulate a new language for diaspora. Cancerous and queer, migrating between Texas and Palestine, ezell asks: how to care for a place when you’re not allowed back?

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blessings and praise:

I simply could not stop reading this bold collection of poems at once dream-flooded and grounded in the quotidian, at once deeply local and radically global. Here is a speaker unafraid to get vulnerable, while understanding the pitfalls and limits of personal revelation. Here is a poet who understands that sometimes the surreal is the best way to the real. As one poem concludes, ‘beneath the scorpions, my mother’s lips. i do not kiss them.’ Cancer and the medical industrial complex, Palestine and ongoing apartheid, gender and Jewish diaspora and car insurance going way up—each of these subjects is taken up with a care that refuses both emotional and political platitudes. Instead, listening and collaboration and a voice that sings, ‘how hungry i am for the sound of a voice behind a closed door.’

Chen Chen, Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize Judge

Bless these brief, exquisite incantations, phrases cut and torn and stitched into talismans of survival, full of echoes.  It’s easy to get lost in clever juxtaposition, but emet wields the technique with impassioned discipline, intent on accurately telling their complex truths. These fragments are set in the inner logic of dreams: each with their precious hearts and harsh edges, the clinical cold of an MRI chamber and love touching fingers through fences. The result is breathtaking.    

— Aurora Levins Morales

between every bird, our bones moots the differences between poetry and prose, fusing the strengths of each into language that is simultaneously down-to-earth and luminous with presence. ezell achieves lyric poetry’s highest purposes: pushing back against the dehumanizing forces of medicalization, geopolitical oppression, economic anxiety, isolation, and distilling them, phrase by phrase, image by image, heartbreak by heartbreak, into glimpses of a deeply lived life that reveals the painful glory of being human.

— Joy Ladin

between every bird, our bones is a monumental chapbook. Throughout, we get to witness a poet of image, resolve, and attention. ezell shows us again and again that within the specific and luminous detail (the conversation, the medical device, the egg) lies the truth, beauty, history, and violence of the entire world. This poet traffics so deftly between desire, the body, sovereignty, critiques of settler colonialism, medicalization, illness, and family, that the reader is somehow convinced we have just read a book instead of something much older and still breathing.

— sam sax

May your aching heart take in all the love gifted freely in emet’s poetry, journeying across trans Jewish time-space, ancestral and diasporic, to share in sorrow as hard as a bone, promise as soft as a bird’s feather, and balm as necessary as moonlight, garlic, and trees.

— Cindy Milstein

between every bird, our bones dazzles in its unflinching serenade to reverence and candor. Shimmering with syncopation, ezell’s are poems that rupture, yearn, grieve, honor, and lust, that bow down in the soil and say, hineini, here i am—how long will you have me? With a tender vibrato, an anointing of daily details, and an aubade of interconnection, ezell shows us how fragments, all along, are whole.  

— Cole Krawitz


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