On Thursday, Mar. 31, the Birmingham Poetry Review, a UAB publication in affiliation with the College of Arts and Sciences, and Thank You Books, a locally based bookstore, hosted a reading series event within the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts. The event spotlighted Nicole Sealey, a St. Thomas-born and Florida-raised poet authoring “The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named,” winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, and “Ordinary Beast,” a finalist for the 2018 PEN Open Book Award. Sealey, earning an MLA in Africana studies and a MFA from New York University, is the recipient of various notable awards and titles, including a 2019 Rome Prize and a Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize. She further served as a visiting professor at Boston University and Syracuse University and a 2019-2020 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.
Delivering a curated selection of her work, Sealey presents a motion picture of visual imagery as her words immerse listeners within a world characterized by the narrator’s experiences, ponderings, and emotions. With the prevailing themes of injustice and examination of the human experience flowing throughout her work, Sealey’s deeply introspective and existentialist musings force both readers and listeners alike to wield a critical view of historical and contemporary events. The dichotomy of the human experience, coated in both joy and suffering, pulses through her writing and engenders audience resonation with posed internal struggles and philosophical inquiries. Moreover, Sealey ponders questions plaguing humanity while examining the Black experience through personal and historical lenses.
A testament to her dedication to shedding light upon racial injustice, Sealey crafts an epic erasure poem of the one-hundred-plus-page Ferguson report, a documentation of the racially motivated murder of Michael Brown by the hands of a Ferguson police officer. The epic, titled “The Ferguson Report: An Erasure,” follows Black youth along their journey from Ferguson to the city of “Freedom.”
Undoubtedly, Sealey’s work will remain a prominent contribution to the sphere of poetry as she delves deeply into relevant social topics while exploring the core of humanity.