Ask a Poet: Nicole Sealey

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Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re talking with Nicole Sealey!


Hey Nicole! What’s new with you?
Just out this past September, my debut collection of poems, Ordinary Beast, is what’s new with me! Since the book was released, I’ve been invited to read, participate on panels, and visit classrooms. And, my schedule shows no signs of slowing… and I’m cool with that. In the next few months, I’m off to Florence, Italy, upstate New York, Indianapolis, New Haven, and Norfolk!

If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asked you to describe your poetry, how would you describe it?
Not in great detail, as I wouldn’t want to scare them off. Of my poems I’d say: I’m exploring my obsessions—love, loss as well as the large and small violences that have shaped me/us— and, in so doing, engaging in a lifelong conversation with myself and by extension you.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
Not at a reading per se, but an interaction with a reading audience nonetheless. An English teacher at a school in upstate New York emailed me earlier this year to let me know that her English class was studying “Clue,” a poem I’d written inspired by the murder mystery game of the same name. The teacher wrote, “We love finding the names of the characters and [would-be] weapons within the text.” A month later, I received video of the class in costume, dramatizing the poem, and having fun while doing so. This was the absolute best!

Born in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. and raised in Apopka, Florida, Nicole Sealey is the author of Ordinary Beast, finalist for the 2018 PEN Open Book Award, and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Her other honors include a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from The American Poetry Review, a Daniel Varoujan Award and the Poetry International Prize, as well as fellowships from CantoMundo, Cave Canem, MacDowell Colony and the Poetry Project. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming to Best American Poetry 2018, The New Yorker, The New York Times and elsewhere. Nicole holds an MLA in Africana studies from the University of South Florida and an MFA in creative writing from New York University. She is the executive director at Cave Canem Foundation and the 2018-2019 Doris Lippman Visiting Poet at The City College of New York.

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