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, Mahogany L. Browne discusses her curatorial approach for July 20–July 31 and her own creative work. How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day?

Mahogany L. Browne: I curated my allotted section with folks I’ve been reading and learning from for years. Some of them had yet to be published in the Academy of American Poets, and all of them are changing the canon in the classrooms, during protests, and on stages throughout the nation. If you could direct readers to one poem in our collection at that you haven’t curated, what would it be and why?

MLB: It would be John Murillo’s “Mercy, Mercy Me.” This poem was written years ago, yet, the tremor of its timeliness still resonates. When I read the first line of the second couplet: Maybe memory is all the home you get? I smell fire and salty tears. I think of uprisings in Watts and Minneapolis, separated by so many years and so many miles and still so close in their echo. The insistence of that line, as it breaks itself, revolves around the reader. This is when the breath and pace and the room quickens—the pulse beckons you to re-read it, again and again. After reading this piece, I tried to regain my balance. I tried to understand the order of us beings. Who are you reading right now?

MLB: I am reading Nate Marshall’s Finna and just finished Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. If I’m honest, I keep a copy of June Jordan’s Directed by Desire and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider by the bed. Just in case. What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?

MLB: I am finishing my second draft of my second young adult novel, still untitled. I am editing my book-length poem i remember death by its proximity to what I love the most, and I’m preparing for the next phase of The People’s Vigil, a virtual memorial. This audio vigil calls the names of those lost to police brutality (over 1400 in 16 months) and is still, unfortunately growing. It is a way to speak their names in reverence and love. To be remembered by your community and loved ones is a necessary part of grieving. 

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