The Academy of American Poets invited twelve guest editors to each curate a month of poems in 2019. In this short Q&A, Samiya Bashir, the Poem-a-Day Guest Editor for June 2019, discusses her curating approach and her own creative work.
Poets.org: How did you approach curating Poem-a-Day for June?
Samia Bashir: June is Fight the Filthy Fly Month so: poems. This clockchoked world. I approached it like a hungry bobkitten, yellow-eyes narrowed into the new-long light. I sniffed Juneteenth’s fleeting sorta-freedom for poems. I kitten-paw creeped June’s choreography of prideful queerity and found, of course, poems. Half-roar, half-purr, I slunk around, drunk on poem time. I sipped and supped and dreamt luminous poem after luminous poem. These sunkissed women and femmes whose magic and trust curved and starburst space! Look out! So very much more light remains as residue. I mean, freedom’s always so temporary. I mean, some Junes father and flag and sport; some don’t. What with the air these days so polluted by violent disrespect, my approach was roses and rivers. Hunger, yes; but also getting all up in the garden. And cats. Grateful, I leaned into the binocular of poems to look out for their cookout. I found it so, you know, come through.
Poets.org: If you could direct readers to one poem in our collection at Poets.org that you haven’t curated, what would it be and why?
SB: Stop. Drop everything now and go see how R. Erica Doyle begins "Where Is She ::: Koté Li Yé" with windswept couplets punctuated by caught breath. The way she sails these sweetnesses of /e/-sounds up as high as the swifts fly. Even here, clutched by the earth-breath breeze, Vaux’s strange birds sleep their way across our September skies. But, never mind that. Listen to Doyle bend the question over and again—Where is your sister?—from her own QueensNY English into and through her grandmother’s Patois. Black women labor, line by line, "to uplift and protect their communities," and Doyle tilts her mirror to their lilting light. Somewhere a "one-celled egun" meets "the torpid moon." Doyle ain’t simple; but neither is she vex. "Everything black / is forbidden," after all, "in Eden." Before you know it, she’ll have you #sayinghername.
Poets.org: What are you working on now in your writing, teaching, or publishing life?
SB: To be honest, I’m skidding into National Rebuild Your Life Month like a top-spitting pot left too long on simmer. My pockets bulge with poems, thumbed to worrystone, that I’ve stolen away from the static finality of published form. Right now, I’m working through poems as body, as vehicle, as house, as home. This year the light’s return coincides with a rare gift of time and space to stretch and breathe, to reflect and think. This summer, I’ll cart my poetry cross-country then over the sea. On the way, I get to guide poets—first on one coast, then another—through the new poetics and processes I’m imagining. This spring, looking forward to the next year or so away from teaching, I worked with a powerhouse group on antiracist creative writing pedagogy; already whatever lies on the other this time side feels energized. Meanwhile, my fingers work to unsnag silk-spun cartographies, sculpt cinepoetic masonry, and explore this or that poem’s bend around line and whisper. What joy that June finds me finally approaching dreamtime. I wonder how many ways I might make my poems bridge unbated breath.
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