With tenderness and ferocity, Jonah Mixon-Webster invents dynamic multi-modal forms to indict structural racism, and to connect the personal to the violence and beauty of history.
Jonah Mixon-Webster is a poet and conceptual/sound artist from Flint, Michigan. His debut poetry collection, Stereo(TYPE) (2018), was awarded the Sawtooth Poetry Prize (2017) and the prestigious PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry (2019). In his acceptance speech for the latter, Mixon-Webster declared that his first ambition as a poet is “to tell the truth about what is happening in Flint, Michigan.” An artful and powerful work of poetic activism, Stereo(TYPE) uses oral history, government documentation, photography, and found text to tell the story of the ongoing public health crisis in Mixon-Webster’s hometown. With driving lyricism, he invites us into a Flint devastated by economic and racialized violence: its businesses, homes, and streets battered, its population winnowed. Intimate and violent, provocative and tender, mythic and ritualistic, Stereo(TYPE) compels its readers to become witnesses to environmental and social evil, and in so doing, to choose between radical solidarity with Flint—or complicity with those who have enabled the government’s relentless predation and persecution of its people. “Resistance,” Mixon-Webster writes, is to “occupy a wound / with a mouth.” Mixon-Webster is co-leader of the PEN America Detroit Chapter and is a 2019-2020 Writing for Justice Fellow. He is an alumnus of Eastern Michigan University and is currently completing his doctoral degree in Creative Writing at Illinois State University.
I was literally upside down with my head in a chair after I got the news! This prize represents the immanent gifts and responsibilities of the craft of poetry. If there is ever a time to use our voices and bodies to form against oppression, it is now! I dedicate this award to the ongoing resistance in Flint, Michigan!JONAH MIXON-WEBSTER