Jamaal May

Posted in Past Guests

Jamaal May headshot

Jamaal May is the author of The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books, 2016) andHum (Alice James Books, 2013). His first collection received a Lannan Foundation Grant, American Library Association’s Notable Book Award, and was named a finalist for the Tufts Discovery Award and an NAACP Image Award. May’s poetry has been featured in many publications, including The Believer, Ploughshares, and New England Review. His work has been recognized by Cave Canem, Bread Loaf, and others; and he has been a recipient of the Kenyon Review Fellowship at Kenyon College, Callaloo and the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship. He is a three-time Rustbelt Regional Slam champion and co-directs OW! Arts with Tarfia Faizullah.

There Are Birds Here

For Detroit

There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl’s hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don’t mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can’t stop smiling about
and no his smile isn’t much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
his neighborhood
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.

From The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books, 2016)



Seminar with Tarfia Faizullah | September 19, 2017

Reading with Tarfia Faizullah | September 19, 2017