Saturday, October 1, 2011

Latino/a Poetry Now Featured Poet: Aracelis Girmay

As Letras Latinas gears up to kick-off "Latino/a Poetry Now,"---a collaborative initiative with the Poetry Society of America which launches on November 8th at Harvard University, in partnership with the Woodberry Poetry Room, featuring poets Eduardo C. Corral, Rosa Alcalá and Aracelis Girmay—I thought it would be fitting to take a sneak peak at one of the three featured poets: Aracelis Girmay.

Girmay is a poet of Eritrean, African American and Puerto Rican heritage. She is the author of Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007) and a second collection to be released this October, Kingdom Animalia (BOA, 2011).  She is Assistant Professor of Poetry at Hampshire College and is also currently on the faculty of Drew
 University's low residency M.F.A. program. Her poems have also been published in Ploughshares, Bellevue Literary Review, Indiana Review, Callaloo, and MiPOesias, among other journals.

Aracelis is also slated to read—along side Martín Espada—on Tuesday Oct. 4th at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.  

Read a review of Teeth here

Of Aracelis’ poems, Martín Espada writes in the foreword to Teeth: “In the title poem, Girmay describes a woman’s teeth as “bullets of ivory,” a fitting description for the poems in this collection: hard, cutting, brilliant, beautiful.” But I would take this metaphor a little further. Her poems are indeed bullets of ivory—bullets fired in celebration of life from the exact center of death and silence.

Aracelis Girmay writes:

I imagined the roots of trees & flowers
taking root in the mouths of the dead,
& the dead whispering into all the ears of all the roots
bil’ee, bil’a, eat, eat, grow, grow, grow.

Aracelis poems are powerful whispers of human resilience in the face of monstrous oppression. Without relying on abstract terms like “violence” or “war” Aracelis' poems seek to bring the reader face to face with these conditions by showing us the human tissues these terms so often mask.  For example in Aracelis' poem describing a rape in the Sudan, paroxysms of rage would suffice to condemn the crimes of those who have “spread her wide as a star” and have “ram[med] their guns inside her.” But Aracelis' poems are instead a constant caress of words, a soothing reminder to “rise up in ululation.”

Hers is a poetry of remembering written for those—to borrow a phrase from Eduardo Galeano—who for centuries have waited to get into history. Where memory serves both as bullet and bread.


Listen/see Aracelis read her poem “Arroz Poetica:”


Read/hear Aracelis' poems at From the Fish House, an audio-archive of emerging poets:

Kingdom Animalia

They Tell Me You Are Gone

Ode to the Watermelon 

To the (Heart) Horse

samuel johnson

Night, for Henry Dumas


--Lauro Vazquez


Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

Deeply moved by this poem and her reading. Thank you.

Francisco Aragón said...

Thank YOU, Andrea, for the positive feedback on the content we're putting up here.