A Reading from The Black Maria
Aracelis Girmay

For the past few years, Girmay has been studying texts and other materials that, through form, language(s), diction, and gesture, perform and think about place and loss of place (or displacement). Her most recent collection, The Black Maria (2016), draws from documentary modes and seeks to think about various African and diasporic exchanges, histories, and survival strategies. The book includes a long elegiac cycle for Eritrean asylum seekers who lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. This book also catalogues various estrangements (from the land, from home, from family) in an attempt to consider the nuanced legacies (and bodily consequences) of constructions of race and nation. She continues to be interested in the ways that lyric and lyric narrative modes might provide practitioners with the vitally experimental ‘space’ to access and archive these histories in meaningfully new ways. In addition to this work, Girmay has recently completed an extensive interview with writer Emmy Pérez about place, ecologies, the consequences of the border wall, and her latest book, With the River on Our Face (2016), a lengthy excerpt from which was published by Literary Hub in 2017.

Aracelis Girmay is the author of three poetry collections, Teeth (2007), Kingdom Animalia (2011) (which won the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award), and The Black Maria (2016) (named a notable work towards her 2017 Neustadt International Prize for Literature nomination). For the last several years, Girmay was on the faculty of Hampshire College’s School for Interdisciplinary Arts. She is currently a 2017–2018 June Jordan Fellow and serves on the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund. Girmay’s poetry and essays have recently been published in Granta, Black Renaissance Noire, and PEN America among others. She has received grants and fellowships from Cave Canem, the Jerome Foundation, and the Watson foundation, as well as the Civitella Ranieri Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Current collaborations include work with the Critical Projections collective and a translation project with writer and visual artist Rosalba Campra. She lives in New York with her spouse and their two children.