2020 Contest Winner

To Speak In Salt

Becky Thompson

For many years, Becky Thompson has brought poetry to refugees in Greece, and they have brought poetry to her. To Speak in Salt is a testimony to that exchange, packed with poems keenly observing people and places where “barbed wire doubles as a fence / a clothesline for diapers.” These are poems weighted with the question of what it means to be a witness to those who have survived the worst, yet still find a way to persist, to pray, and even to praise.

– Philip Metres, author of Shrapnel Maps

From To Speak In Salt

Haiku Questions

Is a poem really
a poem if it’s written on
someone else’s back?

Can there be any
refugee poetry that’s
not by refugees?

Who owns words if they
are in the sea? Can dolls talk
once they wash ashore?


To Speak in Salt is the heartrending story of a people of maps and stars, men and women with olive trees in their blood, and families huddling on rafts married to water fleeing violence and famine. Becky Thompson unfolds each story with lyrical grace and keen insight.”

Sholeh Woplé

Poet and Playwright

About the Author

Becky Thompson

Becky Thompson MFA, Ph.D. is a poet, human rights activist, yogi, and professor. She is the author of several books, most recently, Teaching with Tenderness and Survivors on the Yoga Mat. She has co-edited two poetry anthologies including Making Mirrors: Righting/Writing by and for Refugees (with Jehan Bseiso).