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  • Writer's pictureKayleigh Willis

3rd Place - Django Wylie

Third place in the MONO. Poetry Prize 2023 went to Django Wylie, with the poem, routine operation.


routine operation

The surgeon winced as I woke up, mouthed an “I’m sorry,” and quickly left the room.

Is there a word to designate the opposite of relief? Because lately I’ve been feeling

like a man carrying a new microwave through the surging rain, praying

the sagging cardboard won’t break — or else a child, petitioning

the scratched-out eyes of saints, somewhere in a broken cathedral.

There are still times when I reach for your peaked lapels, hoping

to pull you closer, only to find myself shadowboxing with the hospital air;

there are still times I quail at the acned heat of your piqued temper, like

on the night a centipede bite ruined our brief Greek honeymoon.

Listening to Starry Eyes on the commuter train, I begin to hyperventilate, willing

all this breath to make me air, because lately, I’ve been feeling like a garden

consisting entirely of walls — or, the recent corpse at the end of an unanswered ambulance

call. Maybe once administered, the anaesthetic never really fades;

maybe we only see what we’ve lost, when life’s slim wisps start to slip away.

All Rights. Django Wylie.


An interview with Django:

Tell us a little about your writing journey to date

I started writing poetry late into my teenage years as a way of trying to sculpt some sense out of my experiences (and when I realised I'd never be good enough at the guitar to write songs). I was then lucky enough to be part of the verse writing programme while on my year abroad at UC Berkeley. After that, though I started to focus more on writing prose, as I was doing an MA in Creative Writing in London, I still found myself making notes on scraps of paper or on my phone that I would then try to stitch together into poems. Most of these were included in the chapbook New and Selected Heartbreaks which was published by Indigo Dreams a few years back. At the moment, I'm working on a novel and a new set of poems.

What appeals to you about short-form poetry? I think William Carlos Williams said that a poem "is a small machine made out of words". I think this idea is particularly relevant to short-form poetry, where the real challenge is to generate something of emotional complexity using as few parts as possible. In a poem that is sonnet length or shorter, each word is a load-bearing piece of the whole and must justify its place semantically or sonically (but never just ornamentally) as a component in the work's overall structure. Why did you apply for this competition? I'm a fan of MONO's approach to contemporary writing -- in particular, its embrace of the darkly humorous. Furthermore, the theme of the competition, 'beat', resonated with a lot of the poetry that has been important to me as a reader/writer. In entering the competition, I wanted to see if I could distil a clutch of ideas germane to this theme within the confines of a few lines.

What poet/s inspire your work

Ben Lerner, John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and Emily Dickinson have always been the poets I have turned to for inspiration and solace, but Ocean Vuong's Night Sky with Exit Wounds is probably the best recent poetry collection I've read.

Congratulations Django!

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