The Academy of American Poets invited twelve guest editors to each curate a month of poems in 2019. In this short Q&A, Oliver de la Paz, the Poem-a-Day Guest Editor for October 2019, discusses his curating approach and his own creative work. How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day for October?

Oliver de la Paz: I strived to be inclusive by choosing under-represented writers who were coming out with books or chapbooks as well as mid-career poets whose work hadn’t gotten the attention I felt it should have. Among some of the writers included are a young non-verbal man on the autism spectrum who is publishing his very first chapbook through Unrestricted Interest Press as well as a poet who has published multiple volumes of poems. If you could direct readers to one poem in our collection at that you haven’t curated, what would it be and why?

ODLP: I love E.J. Koh’s poem “Jeju Island.” What I love about it is its economy and the way that the long “o” sounds reverberate. Like “hollow,” “home,” “stone,” “nose,” and “old.” You can almost hear the island moaning from the weight of the stones that are thrown. And that final couplet is devastating, punctuated by that emphatic statement, “Living can tranquilize you.” In such a small space, Koh manages to create depth and meaning by activating the body through her sonic usage and through her imagery. What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?

ODLP: I’ve got a new book of poems entitled The Boy in the Labyrinth that is about my perceptions and flaws as a parent of children on the autism spectrum. It’s been a book I’ve worried over for many years and now I’m happy to release it. I’m also working on a new slate of broken sonnets called “Diaspora Sonnets” as well as a collection that is in dialogue with the camera and violence. Apart from that I’m happily teaching at the College of the Holy Cross and in the Low-Residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University.

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