Poet Of The Week

Britny Cordera

     May 1–7, 2023

Britny Cordera is a published poet, nonfiction writer and emerging journalist who investigates the intersections of environment, climate change and (pop) culture. Currently, she is an intern at St. Louis Public Radio. Cordera’s work can be found in Grist Fix, the New Territory, Atmos, Next City and Nexus Media News. She received her MFA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. When she is not reporting or writing poetry, Cordera teaches for the Saint Louis Poetry Center and roller skates in her free time. She was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow last year for study in Bernard Ferguson’s workshop on the poetics of climate change.

Author photo by Brian Munoz



This is where our wealth haunts the earth—

bulldozers leveling back to dirt, frayed

comforters, pieces of faces ripped

from family photos, mancala marbles

clanging at the bottom of a black bag

with dull spoons & a steel urn

     sanctifying mounds of past hope.

Metal corrodes quick in this acidic

environment, leaves behind bauxite


turning the land into venom.

Like ichor

it disenchants the wind,

ashes yoked in an alloy vase.

Even when we drove past this graveyard

ice-capped on I-40, I smelled

our bygones begging me to wonder

will I become that slurry

if my bones are scrapped this way?

I worried about the lost chicks

a farmer ordered during

the pandemic, the opossums

harvesting on fertile

& half-hatched eggs. & the Juul

carts or boba straws that sneak

off into the ocean.

I used to have hermit crabs

with Poké balls painted

on their shells, prayed

they made their way back

to the sea when they were lost,

found them petrified under the kitchen sink

after seven months. Which is to say

we threw them away too with all the Witness

propaganda, the red leather bible

you gave me that shed its spine.

If no one can create matter

nor destroy it, will waste come back to us

in one form or another over time

as a quilt of satin scraps, cracked

MJ CDs, unraveled buttons,

can a grandmother return

as my sister, my father, my cat

if given a second chance?


—Originally published in PANK’s Environmental Futures Folio, April 2021.

Brooklyn Poets · Britny Cordera, "Landfill"

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I began writing this poem after learning about a family secret. The image of a grandmother’s ashes sitting in a landfill filled my dreams for a while. I spent days doing research on landfills. I wondered where they get placed in a city, what kinds of things get thrown away and what happens when waste management workers find a loved one’s ashes in the trash. After jumping down this rabbit hole, I was ready to write the poem.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I am working on getting my MFA thesis in publishing shape. I am also working on a series of collage poems on climate change. After taking Bernard Ferguson’s workshop on the poetics of climate change, I felt inspired to work on this project. Besides poetry, I am working on building a journalism career from scratch.

What’s a good day for you?

A good day for me is my day off. I just need a day once a week to refresh, do chores, cuddle with my cat, watch anime, read a manga, go skating. That being said, I also love days where I am very productive. A productive day for me is when I get my tasks checked off my to-do list.

Where’s home for you? How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other places you’ve lived?

My sense of home is complicated. Home for me is where my family is, where my lover is and where I connect with community. The pandemic has taught me that home doesn’t have to be one place, and sometimes that home space will be virtual.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that where you live? Why or why not?

Like my sense of home, a poetry community can be anywhere. But I would say I have found that in St. Louis. The literary and writing communities are diverse and amazing. The poets here have been good literary citizens. And I especially love that we know each other for the most part. I love that I am able to contribute to the writing community in St. Louis. I do this by being a teaching artist and introducing young people to poetry while helping them create a literary magazine.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

My Brooklyn Poets workshop leader Bernard Ferguson has been very important to me since going into journalism. Their workshop really helped me understand how to communicate climate change in poetry and in journalism. I also really love Audre Lorde, June Jordan and others.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

My MFA thesis advisor Allison Joseph has been my biggest poetry mentor. She has helped me cultivate my poetic voice. She has been so supportive and encouraging as well. She inspired me to apply for the Brooklyn Poets workshop as well as the Cave Canem fellowship program I got into this year.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

I can’t stop thinking about Honorée Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis. That collection was instrumental for me in finishing my MFA. I still go back to that book when I get stuck in drafting a poem or stuck with how to order my collection in progress. Every poem in that collection has a purpose and place. I can feel how intentional each word is. Not one poem or word is misplaced in that book.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I have ADHD, so you will often find me reading multiple books at the same time. I used to prefer physical copies of books, but now I only prefer my poetry books to be physical, while everything else can be digital. I have reduced my collection by more than half through getting the books I want to read on my Kindle. I read a lot faster on Kindle and focus better, so that is a very helpful tool.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I love reading outside at a park or at a coffeeshop. At home, my favorite place to read is in bed.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate despite a changing world

And what I love about you is everything no matter how it changes

For every new cell within me as good as the reflection of you.