Although the quote wasn't originally hers, my brilliant roommate refers to Aracelis Girmay as "everybody's soul mate," and I'm inclined to agree.
Readers at home may not know this about me, but I'm not really a joiner: I'm usually very skeptical about things everybody's trying, or everybody's interested in. I'm very rebellious. I don't even have a 401K, that's how rebellious I am.
That being said, I did not want to like Girmay's poetry. I can't transcribe the actual feelings I had at the time I started hearing about her, but they were something like, "Sure, New Yorkers want to fold her laundry and kiss her toes, but fuck that worship noise." And I was so, so wrong. I'm not apologizing, folks: this woman is damn good.
Although she's only in her 30s, Aracelis Girmay has already written some of the best poetry I've ever read. There are lines she's crafted that have absolutely changed the way I think about what's possible in language, and the way I move through the world. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I love watching writers in this age range experiment, but I also love when poets have found their own specific voices. I feel, strongly, that Girmay is in the latter category. This isn't to say that she doesn't experiment, but that her understanding of linguistics is exceptional. My first thought, on reading the poems she sent me, was something like, "What. The fuck. She's invented her own dialect."
I had a hell of a time picking just one poem for this spotlight, because Girmay brings a different kind of light to each poem. If you don't know her work yet, know her now. Buy her books. Offer her peaches and dahlias. This is a poet who is growing the art as we speak.
[To all you lovely readers: I'll have an afterword/summation finished in a day or so.]
sea near lampedusa
for the eyes we closed
& the freedom we wasted
for the terrors our acts lit
into the wet retina of
your memory, if you should
call it that
for the years you behaved
in a distance that was not
quite distance, as we burned
our fires, each other, & you, finally,
handless, please—the silence
is what we feed, is what burns
in the bright absence of The Living
they were, swollen in flowered
shirts, & parkas,
in boots meant for the earth,
but not for you
Aracelis Girmay is the author of the poetry collections Teeth and Kingdom Animalia. Teeth was awarded the GLCA New Writers Award and Kingdom Animalia won the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Girmay is also the author of the collage-based picture book changing, changing--which draws its momentum from Ovid's The Metamorphoses which begins (as translated by Ted Hughes): "Now I am ready to tell how bodies are changed/ Into different bodies."
Girmay is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cave Canem Foundation, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and she is on the faculty of Hampshire College's School for Interdisciplinary Arts.