... but there is space here for bones
a ribcage, brimming like yours.
was born in 1982 in Detroit, MI where he has taught poetry in public schools and worked as a freelance audio engineer and touring performer. His first book, Hum, received the Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books and an NAACP Image Award nomination. Other honors include the Spirit of Detroit Award, an Indiana Review Poetry Prize and fellowships from Cave Canem, Frost Place, Bucknell University, and Kenyon College. Recent poetry can be found in The Believer, The New Republic, Poetry, Poetry Daily, Best American Poetry 2014, and the anthology Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poems for the Next Generation (Viking/Penguin, 2015). Recent prose appears online from Poets and Writers Magazine as well as Poetry. From Detroit he serves as Co-Poetry Editor for Solstice, teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, and co-directs the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook and Video Series with poet Tarfia Faizullah.
“Linguistically acrobatic [and] beautifully crafted. . . [Jamaal May's] poems, exquisitely balanced by a sharp intelligence mixed with earnestness, makes his debut a marvel.”
“[Hum] delves deeply, employs clever wordplay, and digs into the resonant hollow of empty space–a play on white noise that gets to the center of a universal rhythm. . .”
“The melancholic hum of May’s tone lends gravity and heart to this debut collection… May’s work is skillful and nuanced in its surprising approach to the nature (and nurture) of identity.”
–Los Angeles Review of Books
“…in Hum, machinery isn’t a predictable representation of modern despair. Instead, it embodies a spiritual force, presenting a potential for energy, for both violence and renewal.”
“Jamaal May is one of the finest poets in his generation. This debut collection is one that makes a mark, that crackles with energy and skill… Strongly recommended.”
–C. Dale Young
“The elegant and laconic intelligence in these poems, their skepticism and bent humor and deliberately anti-Romantic stance toward experience are completely refreshing. After so much contemporary writing that seems all flash, no mind and no heart, these poems show how close observation of the world and a gift for plain-spoken, but eloquent speech, can give to poetry both dignity and largeness of purpose, and do it in an idiom that is pitch perfect to emotional nuance and fine intellectual distinctions. Hard-headed and tough-minded, Hum is the epitome of what Frost meant by ‘a fresh look and a fresh listen.’” –Tom Sleigh
“Jamaal May’s debut collection, Hum, is concerned with what’s beneath the surfaces of things–the unseen that eats away at us or does the work of sustaining us. Reading these poems, I was reminded of Ellison’s ‘lower frequencies,’ a voice speaking for us all. May has a fine ear, acutely attuned to the sonic textures of everyday experience. And Hum–a meditation on the machinery of living, an extended ode to sound and silence–is a compelling debut.” –Natasha Trethewey
“In his percussive debut collection Hum, Jamaal May offers a salve for our phobias and restores the sublime to the urban landscape. Whether you need a friend to confide in, a healer to go to, or a tour guide to take you there, look no further. That low hum you hear are these poems, emanating both wisdom and swagger.” –A. Van Jordan