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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)

Consider the Hands that Write This Letter

Aracelis Girmay

	          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 strangest birds. & consider, then,
the right hand, & how it is a fist,
within which a sharpened utensil,
similar to the way I've held a spade,
match to the wick, the horse's reins, 
loping, the very fists
I've seen from the roads to Limay & Estelí.
For years, I have come to sit this way:
one hand open, one hand closed,
like a farmer who puts down seeds & gathers up
the food that comes from that farming.
Or, yes, it is like the way I've danced
with my left hand opened around a shoulder
& my right hand closed inside
of another hand. & how
I pray, I pray for this
to be my way: sweet
work alluded to in the body's position
to its paper:
left hand, right hand
like an open eye, an eye closed:
one hand flat against the trapdoor,
the other hand knocking, knocking.

From Teeth by Aracelis Girmay. Copyright © 2007 by Aracelis Girmay. Used by permission of Curbstone Press.

From Teeth by Aracelis Girmay. Copyright © 2007 by Aracelis Girmay. Used by permission of Curbstone Press.

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

   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
poem

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

collected in

collection
Elizabeth Bishop and