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About this poet

Aracelis Girmay was born and raised in Santa Ana, California. She received a BA from Connecticut College in 1999 and went on to earn an MFA in poetry from New York University.

She is the author of The Black Maria (BOA Editions, 2016), Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions, 2011), winner of the Isabella Poetry Award and a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award, and Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007). In a statement for the New American Poets series, she says of her work, “I hope the poems are songs sometimes. I want the poems to ask questions. To engage other people. To promote compassion.”

Girmay was awarded a Whiting Award in 2015, and the judges’ citation notes that “her project seems to be our deep and ongoing subjectivity, our vulnerability to history, to one another, to desire, and to the belief in something large and lasting that we might belong to. There’s empathy, play, and fearlessness here, and both formal and emotional range.”

Girmay is also the author of a collage-based picture book, changing, changing (George Braziller, 2005). She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Civitella Ranieri, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and she currently teaches at Hampshire College and Drew University. She divides her time between New York City and Amherst, Massachusetts.


Selected Bibliography
The Black Maria (BOA Editions, 2016)
Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions, 2011)
Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007)

Break

When the boys are carnivals
we gather round them in the dark room
& they make their noise while drums
ricochet against their bodies & thin air
below the white ceiling hung up like a moon
& it is California, the desert. I am driving in a car,
clapping my hands for the beautiful windmills,
one of whom is my brother, spinning,
on a hillside in the garage
with other boys he'll grow old with, throw back.
How they throw back their bodies
on the cardboard floor, then spring-to, flying
like the heads of hammers hitting strings
inside of a piano.
                                  Again, again.
This is how they fall & get back up. One
who was thrown out by his father. One
who carries death with him like a balloon
tied to his wrist. One whose heart will break.
One whose grandmother will forget his name.
One whose eye will close. One who stood
beside his mother's body in a green hospital. One.
Kick up against the air to touch the earth.
See him fall, then get back up.
Then get back up.

Copyright © 2015 by Aracelis Girmay. From The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2015 by Aracelis Girmay. From The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Aracelis Girmay

Aracelis Girmay

Aracelis Girmay was born and raised in Santa Ana, California. She received a BA from Connecticut College in 1999 and went on to earn an MFA in poetry from New York University.

by this poet

poem
	          after Marina Wilson

Consider the hands
that write this letter.
The left palm pressed flat against the paper,
as it has done before, over my heart,
in peace or reverence
to the sea or some beautiful thing
I saw once, felt once: snow falling
like rice flung from the giants' wedding,
or the
poem

   Body of sight. Body of
   breaths. Body of trying.

Beloved, to
day you eat,
today you bathe, today
you laugh

Today you walk,
today you read,
today you paint, my love,

Today you study stars,
today you write,
today you

poem
When I get the call about my brother,
I'm on a stopped train leaving town
& the news packs into me—freight—
though it's him on the other end
now, saying finefine—

Forfeit my eyes, I want to turn away
from the hair on the floor of his house
& how it got there Monday,
but my one heart falls
like a