Guest Poets 2016
Our guest poets for the 2016 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival are Natalie Diaz and Jamaal May.
Books by Natalie Diaz and Jamaal May sold at Festival events! There will also be a signing after their reading on Saturday, April 16. Books are also available ahead of time at:
Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2012. Diaz’s work has also appeared in Narrative Magazine, Gwarlingo, The Rumpus, and Ploughshares. Her poetry has has garnered the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University, a US Artists Ford Fellowship, a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. Her poems, folding Spanish and Mojave into American English, yield an urgent and important new voice to the cannon of contemporary Native Americna poetry, finding a place among the work of Leslie Marmon Silko and Joy Harjo.
When My Brother Was an Aztec blends questions of identity and belonging against the background of Diaz’s reservation upbringing. Called “beautiful” by the the New York Times Book Review, the collection was further praised by Coldfront as an illustration of Diaz’s “capacity for language and metaphor, while still heeding her personal experience.”
Diaz is also an advocate for the Mojave language and a director of the language preservation program at Fort Mojave. Her work with the three surviving fluent speakers of Mojave has been featured on news outlets including PBS NewsHour. She is a graduate of Old Dominion University, where she earned her MFA after playing professional basketball in Europe and Asia.
Jamaal May’s first book of poems, Hum, is a “bittersweet love song” to the ruined streets of his native Detroit. Boston Review writes, “In May’s skilled hands, Keats’s urn becomes a Chinese takeout box and Wordsworth’s abbey spires are belching Zug Island factories.” May’s poetry uses images of technology past and present to render the “hum” that drives human identity and connection. Since Hum’s publication in 2013, May has won the Beatrice Hawley Award, the ALA Notable Book Award, and was a finalist for the NAACP Image award and Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He has also published two chapbooks, The God Engine and The Whetting of Teeth.
May’s poetry has been published in Poetry, The Believer, Ploughshares, New England Review and The Kenyon Review. His work has been recognized by Cave Canem, Bread Loaf, the Lannan Foundation, and the Indiana Review. He has also been a recipient of the Kenyon Review Fellowship at Kenyon College, Bread Loaf, Callaloo and the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship.
May’s career as an editor and teacher began when he taught poetry in the Detroit public school system. Since then, he has also been on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA. He has served as an associate editor of West Branch and the series editor, graphic designer and filmmaker for the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook and Video Series. May is also an a member of six national poetry slam teams, including five from Detroit and the NYC-based LouderARTS team. He is a three-time Rustbelt Regional Slam champion and has been a finalist at several national and international poetry slams.