We are pleased to announce that Mitchell Nobis is runner-up for The Hopper Poetry Prize for his manuscript We Hold These Truths

In its pastiche of Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “A Jackass Tells a Story about Rivers” opens up “. . . a thousand rivers—dreamed & real” that have been “[torn] apart with motors.” Thus begins a collection that navigates the backyards from Detroit to East Lansing, where students trained in active shooter drills “rage” against reading Walden, where you can’t hear the river “talk” for the “highway screaming in the background.” These poems manifest the dilemma of the poet “trying to write a poem about trees” . . . trying to teach “my boys about trees,” in a landscape where there are no trees except the few in a “forest of / solitude & endurance.” Here, nature is perceived as detritus, the people “sweeping maple / seeds & pollen off / the patio” and instead, “harvest[ing] data.” Lyrics conjure up the ghosts of Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, a dead piano on the side of a road. They call and respond: “Good Lord / still now / Good Lord / how.” They end in blue note: “Something gon’ kill us all.” A list poem itemizes the plastic found in a sea bird’s stomach. As the “world / [goes] farther into the / handbasket's Hell,” people mask as animals—the giraffe, water buffalo—and a weed growing out of concrete is “heroic.” Where Apple is the “apex diety,” the narrator and his son say bye to the “grumbling” river.

—Kathleen Hellen, author of Umberto’s Night

Mitchell Nobis is a writer, teacher, and adoptive dad in metro Detroit, where he’s playing basketball with his sons until his body falls apart. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Wayne Literary Review, Exposition Review, Hobart, Cobalt Review, 8 Poems, Alexandria Quarterly, Ponder Review, STAND Magazine, English Journal, and others, and an earlier version of this manuscript was a semi-finalist for the Philip Levine Prize. Find him at and on Twitter @MitchNobis. Enjoy a poem from We Hold These Truths below.


Field Trees

The field tree
stands alone.
Every year
a different
crop surrounds it—
eighty acres of
wheat, corn,
alfalfa, beans.
They come,
they go,

but the tree remains,
an exposed hermit
blasted by sun.
Its furrowed bark
harbors shadows
deep as Hell
in its hard channels
that get rinsed out
with every heavy rain.

The sun always returns,
feeds the leaves,
darkens the chasms again.

Another tree lasts a few
fields away and another
beyond that and so on—
their forest of
solitude & endurance
spread across the