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

Man Matching Description

Because the silk scarf could have cradled

a neck as delicate as that of a cygnet,

but was instead used in last night’s strangling,

it is possible to marvel at the finish on handcuffs.


Because I can imagine handcuffs,

pummeled by stones until shimmering,

the flashlight that sears my eyes

is too perfect to look away.


Because a flashlight has more power

on a southern roadside than my name and blood

combined and there is no power in the very human

frequency range of my voice and my name is dead

in my mouth and my name is in a clear font on a license

I can’t reach for before being drawn down on—


Because the baton is long against my window,

the gun somehow longer against my cheek, 

the vehicle cold against my abdomen

as my shirt rises, twisted in fingers

and my name is asked again—I want to

say, Swan! I am only a swan.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:


Police Brutality

Racial Injustice

Literary Devices:


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work