The Academy of American Poets invited twelve guest editors to each curate a month of poems in 2020. In this short Q&A, Ari Banias, editor for June 1-8 and October 14-30 discusses his curatorial approach for Poem-a-Day and his own creative work. How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day?

Ari Banias: I thought about some of the poets making work I’d most want to see right now, a list much longer than there are days in a month. I thought about the rejection of easy complacencies, about veracity, about rage and range, and transformation—not as formal expectation, but as felt process—and about the many ways poetry can intersect with the life or lives lived behind or within or around it. And also with those out of its view. And ask why should they remain out of its view. Not coincidentally, many of these poems grieve and remember. Some come to the edge of a precipice or a murderous border or time itself. Many ask what else there could be, and insist. Each of these poets honors that unworded strangeness at the pit of whatever’s inside us, and each of them refuses to lie. If you could direct readers to one poem in our collection at that you haven’t curated, what would it be and why?

AB: One would be impossible, so here are four: June Jordan’s poem “Calling on All Silent Minorities” for how it lovingly wields urgency and directness—the all caps are formally perfect—and for its reaching into a collective future. Muriel Rukeyser’s queer little poem “The Conjugation of the Paramecium.” Trace Peterson’s cheeky and smart “Exclusively on Venus” for how it leverages humor as critique. Nazim Hikmet’s “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved,” which I will always be reading. Who are you reading right now

AB: I recently read Brandon Shimoda’s elegaic archival memoir The Grave on the Wall, which is just stunning. It will stay with me. Before that, Etel Adnan’s Of Cities and Women (Letters to Fawwaz), a book of David Wojarowicz’s transcribed tape journals called The Weight of the Earth, and Sadiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval. I’m rereading Katerina Gogou’s Τωρα να δουμε εσεις τι θα κανετε: Ποιηματα 1979-2002 (Now let’s see what you’re going to do: Poems 1979-2002) in Greek. And next, I’m looking forward to Lara Mimosa Montes’s THRESHOLES, Canisia Lubrin’s The Dyzgraphxst, Alli Warren’s Little Hill, and francine j. harris’s Here is the Sweet Hand. What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?

AB: I’m finishing up my second book, A Symmetry, which deals largely with the material and linguistic architectures that underlie quotidian experience. It will be out in 2021.

Read Poem-a-Day.

Back to Guest Editors for 2020.