Rethinking Stealing with Jamaal May

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The Minnesota Review

Jamaal May Jamaal May

I spent a good chunk of February 5th with Jamaal May. In hindsight, I should have chugged a gallon of espresso in order to keep up with this fast-talking, passionate, Detroit-based poet. Over lunch with a few Virginia Tech MFA students, May gave away morsels from the craft talk he would be delivering soon afterwards, titled “Steal This Class.” Having experienced teaching poetry in Detroit public schools, May deplores how something as idealistic as the U.S. education system has been boiled down to the place where we are merely programmed.

He elaborated on this during the craft talk at Shanks Hall, where he demonstrated how intelligence is nowadays assessed by how well we are programmed.

“What’s 1 plus 1?” May asked the audience. The chorused reply: “Two.”

“Let’s complicate the question,” May proposed. “One of what?” He went on to explain how this outside-the-box thinking in…

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White Out

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Silver Birch Press

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WHITE OUT
by Joan Colby

We hit the white out just beyond the Virgil ditch.
A south wind blasting eight-foot drifts
Like a fireship exploding the armadas
Of January. A page of erased zeroes.
Today, it might get to 20, no melt but plenty
Of blowing to disguise what’s road
And what’s the verge, how to be stuck
And invisible.

Last week in such weather a semi
Jackknifed, then another, another, another
Swallowing cars, a multitude following
Faithfully as pilgrims to the disaster
Of the stampede. Finally, there were forty
Or more vehicles crushed and miles of traffic
Detained while the Jaws of Life were deployed.
Three dead including a man whose dog
Was thought to be a fatality but survived
To lick the hands of the first responders.

People we used to call firemen or cops
Rearticulated like weather once called storms
Now polar vortices. Naming something doesn’t change

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Winter Chestnuts and Other Literary Comforts

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Scenes of Eating

I’ve been reading Lolly Willowes, a 1926 novel by Sylvia Townsend Warner set at the turn of the 20th century. The story reminds me a lot of the pastoral 19th century novels I’ve been reading: country life radically contrasted with the city, the smallness of family dramas, the quiet resistance of women in their domestic spheres.

When she moves to London with her brother and sister-in-law, main character Laura (called Lolly by her nieces) is seized by a restlessness every autumn. She finds herself roving and anxious until winter fully arrives and she bleakly resigns to it, and:

She fortified herself against the dismalness of this reaction by various small self-indulgences. Out of these she had contrived for herself a sort of mental fur coat. Roasted chestnuts could be bought and taken home for bedroom eating. Second-hand book-shops were never so enticing; and the combination of east winds and London water…

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