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Jamaal May: Interview Highlights

My interview with Jamaal May was jam-packed, as those of you who already read the full interview transcript know. For those who have a bit less time, this post dives into some of the topics we discussed that I found to be most interesting. We did the interview over instant messaging, so what you’re seeing is 99% exact on what was said.

If you don’t already know who Jamaal May is, check out my spotlight page on him. If you do already know him, be sure you subscribe to his various platforms. (Scroll to the bottom of this page for links.)


Highlights from the Interview with Jamaal May

Here are my personal highlights from the interview:  page vs stage poetry, liminal spaces, poetic torque, the purpose of art, and definitions of poetry.

Page vs Stage Poetry

Core takeaways: Page and stage poetry are wildly different beasts, but working within the strictures of traditional form can improve one’s sense of the musicality of language and otherwise empower stage poetry by stripping away the devices sometimes found in the genre.

Rob D YoungRob D Young: You work in a territory that often crosses, blurs, or rejects the lines between poetry of the stage and poetry of the page. Your video of “I do have a seam” is a wonderful example of this.

What are your thoughts on working in these different forms and contexts?

Jamaal May (academic)Jamaal May: [...] The page became an important goal for me because I realized what I could do in slam was limited by the format in some ways. I was fortunate enough to recognize early that slam had a ceiling and that I’d have to be proactive about learning more about the field of poetry as a whole.

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Jamaal May: Full Interview

This page contains a full transcript of my interview with Jamaal May. We did the interview over instant messaging, so what you’re seeing is 99% exact on what was said. (The exceptions are minor typo corrections and a couple places where I re-grouped comments for the sake of clarity.)

If you don’t have time to read the full interview right now, I encourage you to check out my interview highlights.

If you don’t already know who Jamaal May is, check out my spotlight page on him. If you do already know him, be sure you subscribe to Jamaal’s YouTube page, sign up for his mailing list, browse his website, and buy his books.

Now, on to the main event!


Interview with Jamaal May

Rob D Young

Rob D Young: This is Rob D Young doing a chat interview today with award-winning (and truly bad-ass) performance poet Jamaal May. Let’s start with some of your basic FAQs.

First of all, I’d love your “summed up” version of yourself. Care to give an introduction?

Jamaal May (academic)Jamaal May: That’s kind of thing is always tricky since the overall goal of the art I make is to resist summary. The easier something is to summarize, the more limited it feels. So maybe that’s a way to sum me up: I try to move towards expansiveness. But I suppose my answer is supposed to be something less existential and along the lines of I’m a poet and performer and educator and editor from Detroit who dabbles in graphic design, music, and now photography and film.

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