In 2021, the Academy of American Poets invited twelve poets to each curate a month of poems. In this short Q&A, Fatimah Asghar discusses her curatorial approach and her own creative work. How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day?

Fatimah Asghar: My friend Safia Elhillo and I had just edited an anthology called Halal if You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019), and a lot of the selection from my month is curated from folks from that anthology, alongside other muslim folks, queer folks, and people of color. It was really important to me that we were uplifting marginalized voices and bringing out a lot of folks whose work is just really really, really important. Some are my idols, and some are new poets that I’m really excited about. If you could direct readers to one poem in our collection at that you haven’t curated, what would it be and why?

FA: You know, there are so many poems that I would direct people to. is like such an amazing resource, and I read poems every single day when they come into my inbox. One that has been really sticking with me since I read it was “Real Estate” by Richard Siken. That poem is so incredible, and hit on a very emotional level for me. My parents died when I was really really young, and I have a very complicated idea of family. A lot of the people who raised me are not blood, and there was so much of that in the poem, the complications of family, the complications of death, and then, the end that bolts into really reckoning with death, which will reckon with me. The craft, the emotionality of it… it’s a poem that has really stuck with me. Who are you reading right now?

FA: For poetry, Etel Adnan’s Night and Hayan Charara’s The Alchemist’s Diary. I just read this book on community called How We Show Up, which really resonated with me a lot. It was an incredible exploration of love and community, which are things that I feel very strongly about. 

On my docket, I have Black Futures by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. It's such a beautiful, incredible book as an art piece, and I'm really excited to get into it. I'm also reading a lot about South Asian History, and this beautiful packet of Kashmiri feminist writing. What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?

FA: I'm working on a novel that works around the complications of family dynamics and focuses on three siblings. I’m also working on some TV projects, and I just started a South Asian, multi-genre writers workshop which is really amazing! I was supposed to take seven people and I took twenty-two, so we have like this group of great people. I asked everybody make a playlist of just south asian music for their first assignment, and they've all been exchanging their playlists, so I've just been listening to all the music on repeat which has been really beautiful.

I love teaching! It’s so important for me, and I really hate teaching in white supremacist institutions, so I'm really lucky and that I have the ability right now to make this workshop that's outside of and institution , which means it gets to be its own thing.

Read Poem-a-Day.

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