Jamaal May


Jamaal May was born and raised in Detroit. His first book, Hum (2013), won a Beatrice Hawley Award and an American Library Association Notable Book Award and was an NAACP Image Award nominee. Hum explores machines, technology, obsolescence, and community; in an interview, May stated of this collection, “Ultimately, I’m trying to say something about dichotomy, the uneasy spaces between disparate emotions, and by extension, the uneasy spaces between human connection.” May’s poems have appeared widely in journals such as Poetry, New England Review, The Believer, and Best American Poetry 2014. His second collection is The Big Book of Exit Strategies (2016). May has taught poetry in Detroit public schools and worked as a freelance sound engineer. He has taught in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program and codirects, with Tarfia Faizullah, the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook and Video Series. Source

Athazagoraphobia (Fear of Being Ignored)

II used to bury plum pits between houses. Buried

bits of wire there too. Used to bury matches

but nothing ever burned and nothing ever thrived

so I set fire to a mattress, disassembled a stereo,

attacked flies with a water pistol, and drowned ants

in perfume. I pierced my eyebrow, inserted

a stainless steel bar, traded that for a scar in a melee, [

  ], swerved

into traffic while unbuttoning my shirt—

                                                                  There is a woman

waiting for me to marry her or forget her name

forever—whichever loosens the ribbons from her hair.

I fill the bathtub for an enemy, lick the earlobe

of my nemesis. I try to dance like firelight

without setting anyone ablaze. I am leaning over

the railing of a bridge, seeing my face shimmer

on the river below—it’s everywhere now—

                                                                  Look for me

in scattered windshield beneath an overpass,

on the sculpture of a man with metal skin grafts,

in patterns on mud-draggled wood, feathers

circling leaves in rainwater—look. Even the blade

of a knife holds my quickly fading likeness

while I run out of ways to say I am here.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Body & Body Image

Childhood & Coming of Age

Health & Illness


Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


the absence of a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so…) between phrases and within a sentence


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work

Internal Rhyme

A rhyme involving a word in the middle of a line and another at the end of the line or in the middle of the next.

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses


the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect

Slant Rhyme

A rhyme where the words have similar sounds in their stressed syllables.