5 Birmingham poets share the love with romantic poems

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red roses on book
Photo via thoughtcatalog

Love is in the air this week, and 5 local poets are here to help you get in the Valentine’s Day spirit with their artful and contemplative (and not to mention romantic) poetry.

To say I like poetry would be an understatement, which is why it’s my great honor to share work from 5 local authors on maybe the most prolific poetic subject: love. New, lasting, and fading romance all make their way through the pieces below, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

These poems have been published here in the original format, as sent by each poet.

“What Lives in the If in Al Green’s ‘Simply Beautiful”

poem by ashley m jones

Ashley M. Jones is a poetic tour de force from the Birmingham area, with an expansive literary resume. Jones is a director of the annual Magic City Poetry Festival, co-founder of PEN Birmingham, and a faculty member in the Alabama College of Fine Arts Creative Writing Department. With two poetry collections already under her belt (Magic City Gospel and dark // thing), Jones will publish her third book REPARATIONS NOW! in Fall 2021. Her work has been featured in countless magazines and publications.

Jones’ piece “What Lives in the If in Al Green’s ‘Simply Beautiful'” was first published in Bomb Cyclone.

Birmingham poet Ashley M. Jones by O'Neal library
Ashley M. Jones. Photo via O’Neal Library

Check out Jones’ website for a full bio and to learn more about her incredible work in the literary community in Alabama, and check out this recent Bham Now article about Jones from September 2020.

“A Praise to the Last”

Poem by Matthew Layne

Local poet and librarian Matthew Layne is very active in the Birmingham writing community, formerly hosting live readings at Lodestar Books and Greencup Books. He currently works with the recently revived Word Up!, a poetry initiative with Jefferson County Schools that allows students the opportunity to perform their own poetry for praise and prizes. He is currently a young adult librarian and works on the Printz Award Committee for the American Library Association.

His piece here, “A Praise to the Last,” is previously unpublished.

Poet Matthew Layne
Birmingham poet, librarian and wearer of very cool glasses Matthew Layne. Photo via Matthew Layne

Learn more about Layne in his “Shelter in Magic” interview with the Magic City Poetry Festival.

“She Smiles”

Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins reading “She Smile”. Video via Brian Voice Porter Hawkins

Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins is a well-known face in the Birmingham literary community. Aside from being an incredible orator, Hawkins is the vice-president of We Are Rtists, which connects artists and educates them on the business of art, and Hawkins also directs The Color Project Ensley works to improve the health of Ensley residents. He is also the creator of Bards & Brews, a collaboration with the Birmingham Public Library that provides monthly poetry readings and beer tastings (in short: heaven).

Watch him recite his poem, “She Smile” here, in a landscape so idyllic I think every reading should be held there from now on.

Poet Brian Voice Porter Hawkins
Poet Brian Voice Porter Hawkins. Photo via Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Keep up with Hawkins work at The Color Project Ensley and Bards & Brews, and learn more about the poet in this November 2019 Bham Now profile.

“For the Man Who Washes Dishes While I Write”

poem by alina stefanescu

Alina Stefanescu is a Romanian-born poet who grew up in Alabama and now lives in Birmingham with her partner and “several intense mammals”. She has been featured in a variety of journals, and her creative nonfiction chapbook Ribald published in November 2020. Her poetry collection, The South in my Mouth, was a finalist for the 2020 Richard Snyder Poetry Prize, and her collection dor will reach the world in July 2021. Currently, Stefanescu is the co-director of PEN Birmingham alongside Ashley M. Jones, and she works with the Magic City Poetry Festival.

Her piece “For the Man Who Washes Dishes While I Write” comes from The South in my Mouth.

Poet Alina Stefanescu
Poet (and one of my personal literary heroes) Alina Stefanescu. Photo via Alina Stefanescu

You can learn more about Stefanescu and her many contributions to the local lit community on her website.

“Simple Machine”

Poem by Tina Mozelle Braziel

Tina Mozelle Braziel is a decorated poet with two poetry collections already published, Rooted by Thirst and Known by Salt (for which she won the 2017 Phillip Levine Prize for Poetry). She is currently the director of the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop at UAB. A bonus fact about Braziel: she and her novelist husband are building a glass house by hand.

This piece, “Simple Machine,” is from Known from Salt.

Tina Mozelle Braziel poet and UAB faculty member
Poet and builder of a glass house Tina Mozelle Braziel. Photo via BANG images

Visit Braziel’s website to learn more about her and her work and the glass house).

If you’re interested in Birmingham’s thriving literary landscape, check out this Bham Now article from June 2020.