The Academy of American Poets invited twelve guest editors to each curate a month of poems in 2019. In this short Q&A, Ruth Ellen Kocher, the Poem-a-Day Guest Editor for August 2019, discusses her curating approach and her own creative work.


Poets.org: How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day for August?

Ruth Ellen Kocher: I approached the curation organically for the most part. As poets, we devour poetry voraciously, but I pay attention to what I go back to and why. Poetry is joy. I like different poets and different kinds of poems for different reasons just as I appreciate different kinds of anything I seek out in the interest of joy—architecture, ice cream, shoes, cocktails. But I think it’s important to understand that Joy is complicated. The very keen moments when I encounter a familiar joy that has been elevated and turned, in my mind, so that something more happens, say, something almost problematic, something transformative that makes familiar joy less simple, less neat. Often dark. These are the kinds of moments that bring me back to a poem. I reached out to these poets as poets who I have encountered in this way, who have each at some point ignited in me a moment of transformative curiosity, of complicated joy that brings me back to the breath of the poem hours later when I’m washing dishes or the next morning when I’m tying my shoes. I value the way poetry can remain a living art within us in this way.

Poets.org: If you could direct readers to one poem in our collection at Poets.org that you haven’t curated, what would it be and why?

REK: June Jordan’s "I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies"

Poets.org: What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?

REK: I’m working as Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and Divisional Dean for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Colorado, which makes writing and publishing a desperate pursuit of time. I have a few prose projects and a poetry book that I’m finishing up. In all cases, I’m trying to be honestly present without overly beautifying the corpse, which is easier said than done, of course.


Read Poem-a-Day.

Back to Guest Editors for 2019.

Ruth Ellen Kocher

Read more about Ruth Ellen Kocher, plus poems.


Listen to an interview with Ruth Ellen on WNYC's All of It with Nancy Giles: