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If God Is A Virus: Poems

Seema Yasmin gathers a powerful line-up of poets—George Abraham, Aracelis Girmay, José Olivarez, Janice Lobo Sapigao, and Yalini Thambynayagam—to celebrate Yasmin’s poetry collection, If God Is A Virus.

Based on original reporting from West Africa and the United States, and the poet’s experiences as a doctor and journalist, If God Is A Virus charts the course of the largest and deadliest Ebola epidemic in history, telling the stories of Ebola survivors, outbreak responders, journalists and the virus itself. These documentary poems explore which human lives are valued, how editorial decisions are weighed, what role the aid industrial complex plays in crises, and how medical myths and rumor can travel faster than microbes.

These poems also give voice to the virus. Eight percent of the human genome is inherited from viruses and the human placenta would not exist without a gene descended from a virus. If God Is A Virus reimagines viruses as givers of life and even authors of a viral-human self-help book.

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Dr. Seema Yasmin is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, medical doctor, disease detective and author. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news reporting in 2017 with her team from The Dallas Morning News for coverage of a mass shooting. Yasmin was a disease detective in the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she chased outbreaks in maximum-security prisons, American Indian reservations, border towns and hospitals. Currently, Dr. Yasmin is a Stanford professor, medical analyst for CNN and science correspondent for Conde Nast Entertainment. Find her at, Twitter @DoctorYasmin and Instagram: @drseemayasmin.

Aracelis Girmay is the author of three books of poems: the black maria (BOA, 2016); Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007), winner of a GLCA New Writers Award; and Kingdom Animalia (BOA, 2011), the winner of the Isabella Gardner Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Girmay currently serves as the Margaret Bundy Scott Professor in the English Department. She has received grants, training, and fellowships in support of her projects from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, the Cave Canem Foundation, and the Community-Word Project, among other programs. She is also on the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund.

George Abraham is a Palestinian-American poet, educator, and engineer who grew up on unceded Timucuan lands. They are the author of their debut collection Birthright, winner of the Big Other Book Award, finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry, and was named on Best of 2020 lists with The Asian American Writers' Workshop and The New Arab. Abraham is currently a board member for the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI), an affiliated faculty member at Emerson College, and a Litowitz MFA and MA Candidate in Poetry at Northwestern University.

Janice Lobo Sapigao (she/her) is a daughter of immigrants from the Philippines, and the author of two books of poetry: microchips for millions and like a solid to a shadow. She's been profiled in Content Magazine, Mercury News, SF Gate, and Metro Silicon Valley. Her work has appeared in literary magazines such as Apogee Journal, Entropy, The Offing,, Split This Rock's Poem-of-the-Week, and Waxwing Literary Journal. She is the 2020-2021 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, and a 2020 Poet Laureate Fellow with the Academy of American Poets.

José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, was a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Award and a winner of the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize. It was named a top book of 2018 by The Adroit Journal, NPR, and the New York Public Library. Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he co-edited the poetry anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext

YaliniDream is a touring performing artist, organizer, somatics practitioner, and consultant with over twenty years’ experience using artistic tools for healing, organizing, and dignity with communities contending with violence and oppression. In addition to touring with Jendog Lonewolf as part of Brooklyn Dreamwolf, Yalini is a consultant with Vision Change Win, on the National Committee of the War Resisters League, co-founder of, represented by awQward Talent and co-coordinator of Maynmai.