Maya C. Popa is an American poet, researcher, editor, and teacher who has published two pamphlets: The Bees Have Been Canceled in 2017, and You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave in 2018. Most recently, her first full-length collection, American Faith, was published by Sarabande Books in 2019. The book was the runner-up in the Kathryn A. Morton Prize judged by Ocean Vuong and the winner of the 2020 North American Book Award from the Poetry Society of Virginia. She is the recipient of awards from the Poetry Foundation, the Oxford Poetry Society, and Munster Literature Centre in Cork, Ireland, among others. Maya is the Poetry Reviews Editor at Publishers Weekly and an English teacher and director of the Creative Writing Program at the Nightingale-Bamford school in NYC, where she oversees visiting writers, workshops, and readings. She holds degrees from Oxford University, NYU, and Barnard College (‘11) and is currently pursuing her PhD on the role of wonder in poetry at Goldsmiths, University of London.
As you’ll be able to tell from the recording, Niall Munro spoke with Maya in late May whilst the Covid-19 lockdown was still in place in New York City, where she lives. They talked about three of the poems from American Faith: ‘The Government Has Been Canceled’, ‘Meditation Having Felt and Forgotten’, and ‘Knockout Mouse Model’.
American Faith is a compelling book, especially when we think about we think about how we live now, since it deals with our presence as human beings, what makes language powerful as a way of communicating experience, and what political poetry might look like. It is a book that engages with terror and loss - in the present, historically, and in personal histories - but it also asserts, often joyfully, the presence of the body and how we can see our way feelingly through the world by engaging the intellect, the imagination, and the distinctly human quality of empathy.
You can read the poems that Maya discusses below and you can order a copy of American Faith direct from Sarabande Books, as well as from the usual retailers. You can also visit Maya’s own website and follow her on Twitter.
‘The Government Has Been Canceled’, ‘Meditation Having Felt and Forgotten’, and ‘Knockout Mouse Model’ are © Maya C. Popa and reprinted with the permission of Sarabande Books from American Faith (Sarabande Books, 2019).