Imani Jackson – Frances Mason Harris '26 Prize, 2021

“My sense of the line lacks stability, constantly moving away from and returning to its central concerns of shape and length. As with the bounds of myself, an ebb and flow erratically faint with rhythm…” 

 

Watching this narrative as it gathers, surfaces, changes shape, continues, “Flag” is a deeply satisfying, intelligent and sustained meditation on the mystery and melancholy of the world –of water and language and self.  Precious, provisional, but insistent as well, and engaged with that which morphs and moves and survives it uses ambitiously and to great effect the fluvial as its compositional directive.

 

“This morning, I watched water, speed toward the shore, gather surface, rise, break on itself.  I lived off a wave, my own.”

 

Such is what moves move through “Flag” as it touches on the remembered, the historical, the familial, the emotional, the geological—rising and breaking, falling and eddying. Its keenly observed internal and external states, laced with sorrow and tenderness and wonder.

 

A searching and complex piece, both meandering and contemplative as well as at times irresistibly and startlingly lyrical, FLAG is a work of quiet power and beauty. It lingers in the mind long after it is put down:

 

“To tide the stream’s address, to bring, to flex the weave, to long the frame and float, to rose to bee, and having been go out, with sun, to song, wrung, out to push, and land, coast, leave, after then its’ gone. It will continue to break, and soon sing, elated by time, after the fact, and failure.  The thing will falling shine.  Stoned flaw, and so green, greyn. Blue, and as with and such—we fall off.”