Kingdom Animalia (Aracelis Girmay)


Aracelis Girmay’s poetry collection Kingdom Animalia is among my favorites. She writes with a fluidity and grace that gives her poetry a sense of soulfulness. Her poems are achingly beautiful and get at the loneliness and love that lie at the heart of many human interactions.

The collection itself is organized into six “books” that get progressively shorter and shorter until we are left with a single poem: “Ars Poetica.” This format, which my students aptly pointed out parallels the classification system the collection’s title alludes to, funnels the poems for the reader so that the primary themes (love, loss, life/death) are distilled as one proceeds through the collection.

The poem “&” is perhaps my favorite in the collection. It explores the way an ampersand connects the words around it, likening this silly symbol to people (who also connect and are connected to/by those around them). In fact, the poem ends with these lines:

you remind us
of the heart & how
the heart would
rather die than keep
its two dark arms
all to himself;
his life, like our lives,
depends on what
is at his side.

It’s a beautiful collection, and one that I enjoy very much. I have every intention of reading it again and again in years to come and of teaching it to more classes in the future. If you enjoy poetry, you should give this one a try.

GOOD FOR: People who enjoy contemporary poetry, anyone who has been reflecting on the human condition recently, and those interested in animal studies.

BAD FOR: Anyone who’d prefer not to get too philosophical at the moment, readers who only like closed forms, and those who don’t want to think about any serious issues.

GOOD WITH:  My American Kundiman, Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, and She Had Some Horses.


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