Jonah Mixon-Webster at the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony
Jonah Mixon-Webster was awarded the PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry at the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony. Watch his speech and read the transcript below.
This is my very first book of poetry. When I began writing it, I just set out to do one thing, which was to tell the truth about what’s going on in Flint. Today, it has been over 1600 days since we’ve had clean drinking water.
Growing up, I’ve spent my entire life in the city. I studied. I learned the craft of poetry in Flint, Michigan. One day I will die in Flint, Michigan. In the early gloaming of a raid, as blood honeys the fetid water. I will die in Flint, in a handoff without witness, on any night, perhaps this night. I am found with a broadcloth over my teeth, a bagged object in clutch, emptied water bottles at my side and whatever else is left of my body will now enter the day rearward. In some nature Jonah Mixon-Webster is dead, and weaponless. A fortuitous echo sucking air out, a shrunk mouth portal shrilling its sole evidence of event. A darkening, then all at once, snow.
Thank you, PEN America, thank you to the judges, thank you for the people of Flint, Michigan. This is for the people in Flint.