2024 Montgomery County Youth Poet Laureate

Emi Maeda is a Junior at The Baldwin School. Her work has appeared in the NY Seikatsu Newspaper, The Rising Phoenix Review, The Kenyon Young Writer’s Anthology, and more, and she is the first-place winner of the Charlotte Miller Poetry Contest. In her free time, she publishes zines with her friends and walks her dog. 

Pickled Plums

Instead of being honest,
let’s go to the grocery store,
where you’ll ask me
something, and I’ll shake my head.
I’ll try to say something along the lines
of salt and leaves. But lines end.
And I’ll end up with a messy mouth.
It’ll be like I have your arms.
You have mine.
But we’re both not quite sure
how to use them, So they’re dangling.
Uselessly. Awkwardly.
Funny, right? I’ll laugh.
You won’t.
Because I can’t explain the joke.
Forgive me. It’s my first time in this country.
My father, your son, was too busy
for sixteen years. We’ll walk through
the fruit aisle. Past the rambutans
that look like the itch in my throat,
Past the persimmons
that are the color of the first and only kimono I’ve ever worn.
Do you ever see someone familiar
but can’t remember their name?
Do you ever see someone who loves you and you love back
but can’t tell them so?
I’ve written poems about you
in words you’ll never understand.
This is one. We’ll leave
the grocery store. Salt, leaves, and plums
in hand. Dump them in a pot and wait
for them to pickle ‘till they shrivel red and sharp.
When they’re finally ready,
we’ll eat those sour plums,
smiling through the flavor.


From supermarket to sky, with eyes to seeing eyes and then I, Maeda shows the swerve that happens from happening to writing. Here, lines are lineages and the lyric looks as a woman and at a woman at once. These poems weave history with future in a voice that mimics many voices telling stories together while passing pickled plums around the table. Maeda’s poems are bildungsromans that offer possibilities for old ideas about where knowledge comes from. “I’ll try to say something along the lines/of salt and leaves. But lines end.” Maeda writes with a bravado that can whisper through firework booms. 

Michelle Taransky

2023 Celebrity Judge