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Amanda Johnston

Years: 2005, 2006, 2007


Amanda Johnston earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Her poetry and interviews have appeared in numerous on-line and print publications, among them, The Drunken Boat, Small Batch, New Literati, Pluck and the anthologies, di-ver-city and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. The recipient of multiple Artist Enrichment grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Christina Sergeyevna Award from the Austin International Poetry Festival, she is a member of the Affrilachian Poets and a Cave Canem graduate fellow. She has served on the board of directors for the National Women's Alliance, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference and is the founder and executive director of Torch Literary Arts. Currently, she serves as the retreat coordinator for Cave Canem Foundation,and is a Badgerdog teaching artist.


First Song


for Ahyana



She opened her silent mouth

and my heart stood still

as the doctor dangled her

head down and bloody like a fish

caught between the muck and pull

of my churning water and vine 

creeping awkwardly up to this

blurry life of tears and loose soil.

The delivery room held fast

while her silence echoed off

defibrillators, nursing hands

and her father tending my

hollow earthbound body waiting

for his daughter’s first solo

in a chorus of furrowed brows.

We wanted to hear her wail

with a quick slap on the ass

desperate breath then sound 

at least a whimper of newness

breaching our anticipation 

not this eternal pause of her 

wide eyes questioning yes or no

to this world of uncertainties.

She wailed and my heart stood still

in that resounding yes, yes she would

stay in this imperfect place 

with all of its cobwebs and stars

here, in the shit and pain of birth,

she wailed and her song began.