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

Pomegranate Means Grenade

The heart trembles like a herd of horses. —Jontae McCrory, age 11


Hold a pomegranate in your palm,

imagine ways to split it, think of the breaking

skin as shrapnel. Remember granada

means pomegranate and granada

means grenade because grenade

takes its name from the fruit;

identify war by what it takes away

from fecund orchards. Jontae,

there will always be one like you:

a child who gets the picked over box

with mostly black crayons. One who wonders

what beautiful has to do with beauty, as he darkens

a sun in the corner of every page,

constructs a house from ashen lines,

sketches stick figures lying face down-

I know how often red is the only color

left to reach for. I fear for you.

You are writing a stampede

into my chest, the same anxiety that shudders

me when I push past marines in high school

hallways, moments after video footage

of young men dropping from helicopters

in night vision goggles. I want you to see in the dark

without covering your face and carry verse

as countermeasure to recruitment videos

and remember the cranes buried inside the poems

painted on banners that hung in Tiananmen Square—

remember because Huang Xiang was exiled

for these. Remember because the poet Huang Xiang

was exiled for this: the calligraphy of revolt.

Always know that you will stand nameless

in front of a tank, always know you will not stand

alone, but there will always be those

who would rather see you pull a pin

from a grenade than pull a pen

from your backpack. Jontae,

they are afraid.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:





Strength & Resilience

Violence & War

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme


(of a literary work) in the form of letters


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”