Born in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. and raised in Apopka, Florida, Nicole Sealey is the author of Ordinary Beast, finalist for the 2018 PEN Open Book Award, and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Her other honors include a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from The American Poetry Review, a Daniel Varoujan Award and the Poetry International Prize, as well as fellowships from CantoMundo, Cave Canem, MacDowell Colony and the Poetry Project. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming to Best American Poetry 2018, The New Yorker, The New York Times and elsewhere. Nicole holds an MLA in Africana studies from the University of South Florida and an MFA in creative writing from New York University. She is the executive director at Cave Canem Foundation and the 2018-2019 Doris Lippman Visiting Poet at The City College of New York.
I met Sealey at her office in Brooklyn, where she works as the Executive Director of the Cave Canem Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has for over two decades been committed to supporting African American poets through fellowships, workshops, and a national community hundreds strong. When I arrived, the clean, modern office space was mostly cleared in preparation to host an event the next night, Walking the Walk: Poetry, Equity & Anti-Racism in the Literary Arts, as a part of their ongoing antiracism workshop series. Warm and graceful, she offered me water and we found a quiet conference room to delve into the nuances of Ordinary Beast.
Sealey, Nicole. "A Violence." The New Yorker, August 8, 2016.
You hear the high-pitched yowls of strays fighting for scraps tossed from a kitchen window. They sound like children you might have had. Had you wanted children.
Even the gods misuse the unfolding blue. Even the gods misread the windflower’s nod toward sunlight as consent to consume. Still, you envy the horse that draws their chariot. Bone of their bone. The wilting mash of air alone keeps you from scaling Olympus with gifts of dead or dying things dangling from your mouth—your breath, like the sea, inching away.
Nicole Sealey is having the kind of year debut poets dream of. After releasing her first full-length poetry collection, "Ordinary Beast," in September 2017 to widely acclaimed reviews from some of the biggest names in the industry — including praise from The Paris Review, Publisher’s Weekly, and PBS Newshour, among others — Sealey now has an in-demand touring schedule booked until the end of 2018. A few months after its release, "Ordinary Beast" made the longlist for the Pen Open Book Prize. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith puts it simply: "Nicole Sealey is a poet for the ages."