In solidarity with the June 2020 protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, Poem-a-Day will be dedicated to featuring Black poets, engaging a number of Black curators throughout the summer to guest edit the series in two-week installments. In this short Q&A, A. H. Jerriod Avant discusses his curatorial approach for August 17–August 28 and his own creative work.
Poets.org: How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day?
A. H. Jerriod Avant: I approached this curation with poets in mind whose poems make me get up out my seat in the middle of reading them, or right after I utter the last word. So I knocked on the doors of poets who tend to deploy disruption as a meaningful tool in their work and while disruption can certainly be thought of in broad terms, these poets have zeroed in on specific manners of disruption whether they be linguistic, structural, ideological or even sonic.
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?
AHJA: In Harryette Mullen’s “From Tanka Diary”, I’m intrigued by Mullen’s ability to both derive and convey meaning inside lines whose logic is built on opposition and being counter to. A botanical garden whose remembering is counter to Mullen’s remembering, questions answered by the revelation that happens when a thing unfurls and even the knowledge trees have of themselves can’t be read/comprehended by the speaker, even though its bark is curled into a scroll like figure. I love the inexactness in Mullen’s work as much as I love the simultaneous resolve she offers us in it.
Poets.org: Who are you reading right now?
AHJA: Ama Codjoe’s Blood of The Air, Monica Sok’s A Nail the Evening Hangs On, inching my way through Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower—which is super interesting to be reading right now—and I’m always dipping in and out of Harryette Mullen’s Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge.
Poets.org: What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?
AHJA: I’m currently working on the shape of a full-length poetry manuscript that has seen significant changes over the last couple years. My hope is by summer’s end I will have sent a new version of it to a few places for consideration. I’m also preparing my first virtual syllabus for my creative writing class this fall and I find myself trying to demystify the bulky, laborious nature of the traditional syllabus. Community is interesting to think about right now, as most of my communications and work has been via some form of video chat, phone call, text, or email with colleagues, family members, and friends. This summer I tutored students who participated in URI’s Talent Development program—which was completely online—and it has reworked my relationship with online classes and the things I’ve taken for granted in the face-to-face classroom. And I am still and usually sending poems out, just as slow as I’m writing and revising them.