Reimagine has been hosting candlelight vigils throughout the pandemic in order to break down taboos and hold space for all that we've lost. Tonight's program will include a conversation with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments—a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.
About Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Born to a Filipino mother and Malayali Indian father, Aimee Nezhukumatathil (neh-ZOO / koo-mah / tah-TILL) is the author of four books of poetry: Oceanic (Copper Canyon 2018); Lucky Fish (2011), winner of the Hoffer Grand Prize for Prose and Independent Books; At the Drive-In Volcano (2007); and Miracle Fruit (2003), all from Tupelo Press. Her collection of nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, is forthcoming from Milkweed in 2020. With Ross Gay, she co-authored Lace & Pyrite, a chapbook of nature poems (Organic Weapon Arts, 2014). Lucky Fish won the gold medal in Poetry for the Independent Publishers Book Awards and was featured in the New York Times and on the PBS NewsHour ArtsBeat. Poems from this collection were also awarded an NEA Fellowship in poetry, the Glenna Luschia Prize from Prairie Schooner, and the Angoff Award from The Literary Review for the best poems appearing that volume year. At the Drive-In Volcano was named winner of the Balcones Prize, which honors an outstanding collection published the previous year. Her first collection of poetry, Miracle Fruit, was selected by Gregory Orr for the Tupelo Press Prize and was the winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award in poetry, the Global Filipino Literary Award. Other awards for her writing include the Pushcart Prize, a poetry fellowship to the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah, and the Richard Hugo Prize from Poetry Northwest.
World of Wonders (Milkweed Press, 2020), Nezhukumatathil’s first nonfiction book, is an illustrated collection of nature essays told in the context of her unusual childhood growing up on the grounds of mental institutions in rural America and navigating the parent-push towards science while finding herself drawn toward language—all unfolding through detailed and delightful observations about the oddities and fascinations of our planet. Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders, which was named Barnes and Nobles’ Book of the Year, is a book of sustenance and joy. Author Kiese Laymon says the collection is, “the first book to make me feel like a firefly as much as it reminds me I’m still a black boy playing in Central Mississippi woods. The book walks. It sprints. It leaps. Most importantly, the book lingers in a world where power, people, and the literal outside wrestle painfully, beautifully. This book is a world of wonders. This book is about to shake the Earth.”
Nezhukumatathil’s poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, Quarterly West, New England Review, Ploughshares, FIELD, Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Southern Review, and Tin House. Poems and essays have been widely anthologized in such venues as The Best American Poetry series, Billy Collins’ second edition of Random House’s Poetry 180: A Poem a Day and Language for a New Century: Contemporary Asian American Poetry from W.W. Norton. A number of essays and poems have also been published in several high school AP English textbooks and college textbooks.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is also known for her dynamic and joy-filled teaching. Equally at ease in a university or high school classroom, she often serves as a poetry “ambassador,” bringing the delights and joys of reading and writing poetry to classrooms all over the country. She has twice served as a faculty member for the Kundiman Asian American Writers’ Retreat. Her books are widely adopted for high schools, colleges, and universities as part of contemporary poetry, women’s studies, and Asian-American literature classes; and she has been a featured reader at over a hundred venues across the globe from Amsterdam to Singapore.
In 2014, Nezhukumatathil became one of the country’s youngest poets to achieve the rank of full Professor of English. During the 2016-17 academic year, Nezhukumatathil was the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at The University of Mississippi. She is now professor of English and teaches environmental literature and poetry writing in the MFA program of the University of Mississippi.
Reimagine hosts community-driven experiences that bring creativity, connection, and essential conversation to face adversity, loss, and mortality, and channel the hard parts of life into meaningful action and growth. Reimagine envisions a world where we can embrace life fully—from this moment through the end—and collectively contribute to a more just and compassionate society. Reimagine experiences encompass arts + entertainment, healthcare + social services, spirituality + religion, and Innovation + design.