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BOA Editions Names Aracelis Girmay as Editor-at-Large for Blessing the Boats Selections

Blessing the Boats Selections will honor new poetry books by women of color

Aracelis Girmay (Photographer: Sheila Griffin)

Rochester, New York –– BOA Editions, Ltd. has named Whiting Award-winning poet Aracelis Girmay as the Editor-at-Large for a new publishing line to spotlight new poetry books by women of color. Girmay will select and curate the Blessing the Boats Selections within BOA’s American Poets Continuum Series. 

Named in honor of poet Lucille Clifton (1936–2010) and her National Book Award-winning collection Blessing the Boats: New & Selected Poems 1988–2000 (BOA, 2020), the Blessing the Boats Selections will celebrate works that continue Clifton’s legacy of writing to the experience of nonwhite women.

“I am thrilled to welcome Aracelis Girmay as BOA’s first Blessing the Boats Selections Editor-at-Large. I can’t imagine a better person to work with to further solidify and institutionalize BOA’s commitment to publishing diverse, robust, and innovative new collections of poetry in honor of Lucille Clifton’s enduring legacy. We also thank the entire Clifton family for their endorsement and ongoing enthusiasm for Blessing the Boats Selections. This team effort will surely bring important new books into the world,” said BOA Publisher Peter Conners.

Aracelis Girmay is the author of three books of poems: the black maria (BOA Editions, 2016); Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007), winner of the GLCA New Writers Award; and Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions, 2011), winner of the 2011 Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. She is also the author/illustrator of the collage-based picture book changing, changing. For her work, Girmay was nominated for a Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2018. For the last several years, Girmay was on the faculty of Hampshire College's School for Interdisciplinary Arts and before that taught community writing workshops with young people in New York and California. She has received grants, training, and fellowships in support of her work from the NEA, the Whiting Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, the Cave Canem Foundation, and the Community~Word Project, among other programs. She is the editor of How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton (BOA, 2020) and is on the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund.

“I am so honored and thrilled to serve as the Blessing the Boats Selections editor these next three years. Especially as we experience multiple escalated crises, it is deeply meaningful to me to listen toward the writing and thinking of others, and to know that one of these texts will be shareable as a book. I take this very seriously. And find this a really beautiful and powerful commitment. I imagine it will be very difficult work (the narrowing) but it will also be a gift to breathe alongside the efforts of others, feeling, I hope, a possibility born out of a frictive difference of voices, perspectives, imaginative strategies. We so need each other. And so it feels really lucky to be part of this effort born out of the capacious, brilliant vision of Lucille Clifton and oriented toward a work I cannot yet know or imagine," said Girmay.

Designed to celebrate the voices of established and up-and-coming women poets of color, the Blessing the Boats Selections initially launched in April 2020 with support from a $10,000 grant from the Amazon Literary Partnership Poetry Fund and the Academy of American Poets. The debut titles in the Blessing the Boats Selection are Year of the Dog by Deborah Paredez (BOA, 2020) and Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes (BOA, 2020). Blessing the Boats Selection authors receive a $1,000 honorarium in addition to publication within the American Poets Continuum Series.

Girmay will select the Blessing the Boats Selections for 2021–2023 through an annual open-reading period. Submissions will be open to all women poets of color in the U.S., including poets who identify as cis, trans, and non-binary people who are comfortable in a space that centers on women’s experiences, regardless of citizenship and publication history. The inaugural open-reading period will be open November 1–November 30, 2020. Submission details are available at boaeditions.org/pages/blessing-the-boats-selections


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