VLA LGBTQIA+ Forum 2021 Poetry Contest Winners

Thank you everyone that participated in this contest, including the poets and judges. We would like to share the top three poems with you to show how awesome  and how close this competition was. We invite you to read and share these poems with your libraries, fellow librarians, and even patrons! With hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything.

The winners of the contest will receive gift cards to establishments local to them, paid for by donations to the the LGBTQIA+ Forum Fund.

1st Place: Martha-Lynn Corner “Self-Talk on the Way to Change”
2nd Place: R. Condon “No Patron, but Messenger”
3rd Place: Anonymous “Gender identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male of female (or rarely, both or neither)”

**Winning Poem**
Self-Talk on the Way to Change
by Martha-Lynn Corner


When encountering those different from you,

do not be an asshole.  

Accept that change can be uncomfortable,

And live it anyway.  

Try to grow your mind enough  

To at least consider

That what you’ve been taught  

might be wrong.

Enter tolerance.


You’ve always enjoyed a stable base. You learned this attempting to ride a horse in middle school.  

Boats make you seasick.

In cars, you sit up front.

Likewise, this “tolerance” business  

makes you queasy.

Merely tolerating something feels like ignoring it. Enter questioning.


What if they were wrong? What if God does not hate anyone, but created everyone? What if everyone  
is equally deserving of love?  

Of rights?

Of happiness?  

What if what you’ve left unexamined
is actively hurting someone else?  

Someone you care about?

Enter change.


You hate change.  

Change feels like the worst kind of shopping. Shopping for pants.

Everyone says slim-fit is the way to go, But your thighs feel like they’re under arrest. The relaxed fit sounds so nice.  

Forgiving. Comfortable.  

Easier to breathe this way.

A softer way to exist.

A gentler way to be in the world.

Enter realization.


Remember how you loved rainbows as a child? Those beautiful colors, all in a row?

You kept a rainbow sticker on your headboard.  Puffy, bright, and proud.  

Enter reconciliation.

Apologize to those you’ve hurt.

Learn to make amends.

Raise the bar above not being an asshole to being an advocate.  

Help where once you harmed.

Enter empowerment.

Artist statement: I’ve been a proud advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community since middle school, but I’ve watched family members struggle to learn acceptance. This piece reflects some of the stages I’ve seen at work on the journey to change.


No Patrons, but Messengers
by R. Condon

I have lived a lie of omission, and lies of omission are sins of omission
I have always been squeezed between two true untruths
(No, not always
There was once a child no more than four
Joyous and gasping, grasping, arms stretched wider than wings
Wilder than categorization)
"Male and female He created them"
Yes, but more than that!
"Fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth" Yes, and frogs and swans and capybaras
Liminal things whose transgressions make them suitable to eat those Fridays all other crawling flying beasts get a stay of execution
But still, they exist
But still, He created them
But things like me?
Constricted, I would kneel, knees and elbows together
Apologies sticking to my pallet, pleas slipping through my teeth like water To crush me small enough to fit one of the true untruths that were simply truths for my brothers and sisters
There are no patron saints of monsters
(Monster, from monstrum, omen, from moneō, warn)
Warn whom of what?)
However tightly I compressed myself
I could not fold into unbecoming a creature more becoming  
In the human eyes that kept sight of faith and holy things
Strangled under their suspicious gaze, I averted mine down
Until a day suspended between true summer and early autumn, when I averted upward Audacity rewarded with a glimpse of something more terrible and glorious than the death of stars Snarled fangs biting back bellows to break cliffsides, wings to beat back hurricanes, hooves to  shatter bedrock
Tens of eyes to rend through me as surely as so many bullets
That saw me where human eyes did not, and passed over me without condemnation There are no patron saints of monsters  
But a message and a messenger are very much related
If I am an omen, a warning
(To whom? Of what?)
Perhaps that warning is passed through the claws talons hooves hands
Of conscious vessels in all the shapes of ambiguity
Liminality the choice of our Creator, not an accidental deviance
An embarrassing blemish to be balled up, as close to out of sight as possible Maybe what I am is monstrous, is awful
But the worldly do not know which definitions to use
Maybe what I am is a warning (or a message) meant to inspire awe
I am something allowed to exist unfolded, without self-contortion or self-omission
Messages are meant to be seen Messages are meant to be heard

“Gender identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male or female
(or rarely, both or neither).”
By Anonymous

I’ve done it once already,
A sentiment fit neatly into phonemes.
The stop, and then the diphthong:
       I’m bi,
The stop, and then the long pause.

And then, later,
‘Queer’ as catch-all.
A blessing.
(There is no polite way to ask,
‘queer’ like who you fuck,
Or ‘queer’ like who you are?)

I keep a list on my phone that reads like poetry: - A woman, with a footnote1
     - Not stirring the pot
     - Whatever the gender of a ripe cherry
     - Whatever the gender

One that says:
     - cisn’t

Which always makes me laugh,
     - Carmex queer
     - Femme la croix
     - Cis people don’t think about it this much, and - That should probably tell you something, kid

I’m not sure how to google this one.

I’m not sure there is a controlled vocabulary (or maybe that’s part of the problem?)

All of my poems are about not knowing.

About holding something in, akin to breath. I’ve added that one to the list, too.