The Academy of American Poets invited twelve guest editors to each curate a month of poems in 2020. In this short Q&A, Roger Reeves, the Poem-a-Day Guest Editor for February discusses his curatorial approach and his own creative work.
Poets.org: How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day?
Roger Reeves: I approached curating Poem-a-Day the way I approach my reading and writing life—looking for poets who challenge me either aesthetically, politically, spiritually, or emotionally. I wanted to gather a selection of poems that spanned the largeness of America, poems that troubled the narrative of what and who is American, poems from the colonies of America, poems in translation, poems that grappled with our ignominious history, poems from all of the Americas we occupy. I also wanted to feature poets and poems who have yet to publish a full-length collection, poets such as Cristina Correa and Kyle Churney.
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?
RR: I thought Audre Lorde but alas there is only audio of Lorde reading “The Black Unicorn” and “A Song for Many Movements,” good poems, but not exactly what I was looking for. And, I searched on and on and on, combing through the archives of Poets.org, but Audre Lorde’s voice stayed with me throughout my search, her beautiful poems of resilience. The fact that “broken-down Gods survive in the crevasses and mud pots of every beleaguered city.” And, I couldn’t shake that line so that is where I will direct you—to Audre Lorde and her intoning that “our labor has become more important than our silence.”
Who are you reading these days?
RR: I am reading several things. It might sound like a cliché, but I love to read so I’m often reading many things at once. Right now, on the nonfiction side of things, I’m reading As Serious as Your Life by Val Wilmer, a book about the development of free jazz in America between 1957 and 1977. I’m also reading Will Alexander’s Singing in Magnetic Hoofbeat and Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others. In terms of fiction, I’m re-reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved (partly because I’m writing an essay on privacy, politics, and activism and partly because it’s Toni Morrison and she’ll keep a brother’s head on straight). And, I’m reading Clarie Lispector’s The Chandelier as well as re-reading Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of this World. On the poetry side, I’m reading Christopher Gilbert’s Across the Mutual Landscapes, Mary Ruefle’s Dunce, Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem, and Reginald Dwayne Betts’ Felon.
Poets.org: What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?
RR: Like my reading life, I’m often juggling several projects. A friend calls this crop rotation. I’m working on book of essays, putting together a book of poems, and thinking about a revision to a novel project. Most of my attention right now is on the poems and essays. I have poems and essays forthcoming from a few journals and magazines so deadlines loom. Let me get back to work.