The Academy of American Poets invited twelve guest editors to each curate a month of poems in 2019. Read a short Q&A with TC Tolbert, listen to an interview on WNYC, and browse the curation for January 2019 below.
Poets.org: How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day for January?
TC Tolbert: With barely containable joy! And simultaneous hesitation. And a healthy dose of humility. Having coedited Troubling the Line, I’m cautious about how much space I take up as an editor because, while I truly love uplifting poets whose work shakes or thrills me in some way, I’m wary of the slide into gatekeeping. This opportunity struck the right balance for me because 1) I respect the constraint that I couldn’t ask poets who have been published in Poem-a-Day in the last year and 2) the curators rotate throughout the year. I deeply appreciate those efforts to keep the space expansive and reflective of the wide range of brilliance happening in poetry right now.
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?
TCT: “Cento Between the Ending and the End” by Cameron Awkward-Rich. I love Cam’s work and this poem, in particular, because it embodies the shimmer of being shaped and held and reflected and seen by the language of another. In this poem, I feel the fibrous muscle of community—a celebration of the individual and what is possible in relationship. I suppose I’m in love with its simultaneity.
Poets.org: What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?
TCT: I’m working on writing poems that are more porous than I yet know how to be. I’m also looking for (and trying to create) integrity in (and with) words. I’m working on a column on revision called “Poet’s Corner,” and I’m working on a Habitat home-build with poets and writers in Tucson, as well as coordinating some poetry blood drives (as Tucson’s poet laureate) as a way to integrate and realize some of the transformation that poetry makes possible on the page.
I don’t really distinguish between writing and teaching very much (or between any of my practices really—walking, eating, dancing, drinking water, being in relationship, etc. I find a lot of truth in the adage “The way you do one thing is the way you do everything”) so if I say I’m practicing revision I mean I’m doing that all ways (always)—with syllabi, student feedback, drafts from the summer, rerouting the gray water through the backyard. My belief is that the writing is teaching me how to live—has always done so—and the living teaches me how to write—many drafts, many guides for who I want to be in the world.