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, Nicole Sealey discusses her curatorial approach for August 31–September 11 and her own creative work. How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day?

Nicole Sealey: This curation is dedicated to Breonna Taylor, a twenty-six-year-old Black woman murdered by police in her Louisville home on March 13, 2020. Arrest the cops who killed Breonna.

This group is composed of poets from the Caribbean to Canada, from the West Coast to the East, from the South to the Midwest. These poems—all by Black women, all first-time Poem-a-Day contributors—are gorgeous and ferocious. I’m a huge fan of these poets, their work, and am thrilled (for me as much as for you) that these poems will have a home in our imaginations. If you could direct readers to one poem in our collection at that you haven’t curated, what would it be and why?

NS: I would direct readers to Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die.” The poem speaks to our struggle as well as our strength. It affirms that we are not imagining things, that this is not normal, that all Black lives matter. Who are you reading right now?

NS: I’m reading Ama Codjoe’s Blood of the Air, Amaud Jamaul Johnson’s Imperial Liquor, Taylor Johnson’s Inheritance, John Murillo’s Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, Xandria Phillips’s Hull, among others. (I’ve been reading a book or chapbook of poems each day in August for the Sealey Challenge, so I’ve been reading nonstop.) What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?

NS: My attention is on craft classes I’ll be teaching this fall. We’ll be reading the drafts that made poems possible. So, right now, I’m gathering source materials—collections, essays, anthologies, etc. One such source is Eileen Tabios’s Black Lightning: Poetry-in-Progress, which I recommend.

Read Poem-a-Day.

Back to Guest Editors for 2020.