Jamaal May was born and raised in Detroit. His first book, Hum (2013), won a Beatrice Hawley Award and an American Library Association Notable Book Award and was an NAACP Image Award nominee. Hum explores machines, technology, obsolescence, and community; in an interview, May stated of his first book, “Ultimately, I’m trying to say something about dichotomy, the uneasy spaces between disparate emotions, and by extension, the uneasy spaces between human connection.” May’s poems have appeared widely in journals such as Poetry, New England Review, The Believer, and Best American Poetry 2014. His second collection is The Big Book of Exit Strategies (2016).
May’s honors and awards include a Spirit of Detroit Award, an Indiana Review Poetry Prize, and fellowships from Cave Canem, Bread Loaf,The Frost Place, the Lannan Foundation, and the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He is the 2014–2016 Kenyon Review Fellow at Kenyon College and a recipient of the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship in Italy.
May has taught poetry in Detroit public schools and worked as a freelance sound engineer. He has taught in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program and codirects, with Tarfia Faizullah, the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook and Video Series.