Ask a Poet: SAFIA ELHILLO

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Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re getting to know Safia Elhillo!


XElhilloHey Safia! What’s new with you?
I’m enjoying the last few weeks of my “summer break” before returning to touring and teaching in the fall! Personally, I am mourning my cactus that died while I was traveling, and looking for a good curly haircut (just a trim!) in DC. Professionally, I am currently a finalist for the 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship [editor’s note: she’s since been awarded this Fellowship!], and have just received a 2018 Arab American Book Award for my collection, The January Children!

What are you currently reading?
I just finished Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi and LOVED IT. I’m about to start Terrance Hayes’ American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin and Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come For Us.

If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asked you to describe your poetry, how would you describe it?
Strange, bilingual, and only I think the jokes in it are funny.

What books of poetry/poets do you recommend to a new reader of poems?
Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah by Patricia Smith, Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson.


Safia Elhillo, Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, is the author of The January Children. She received the the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and is co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Safia is a Cave Canem fellow and holds an MFA in poetry from The New School. She is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me.

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