Poetry Workshop with Safia Elhilo

In the last month, IDA has had the honor to host three rising and prominent poets of color for workshops with the community. We are so grateful to have been able to work with these amazing poets to foster a space for creativity and storytelling on campus.  

On January 24th, we shared space with Safia Elhilo, a Sudanese-American poet and the recipient of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and a 2018 Arab American Book Award in the shape of a poetry writing workshop and a live performance. In the afternoon, we hosted a writers workshop at Harmony House, where Safia shared a series of poems that she draws inspiration from and prompts that she uses to inspire her own work.

She asked participants to list three things that they lost, 3 things that they wish they could undo, and 3 things they wish that could undo. Given these prompts, Safia worked with students to craft a poem. Safia created a generative space for students to workshop their own writing and to learn from her own creative process.

In the evening, IDA hosted a performance with Safia at Kairos. Our wonderful IDA Fellow, Maya Salameh opened for Safia with her new work.  Maya centers her art practice around reviving and recollecting her origins and has a chapbook, rooh, forthcoming with Paper Nautilus Press in 2020.

“My uncle calls me by my father’s name and I don’t flinch// I spend middle school avoiding chamomile swimming in crewnecks// I was a boy growing up until I started falling in love with them”

Safia, in all her brilliance, shared pieces from her book, The January Children. Safia’s poetry is deeply personal and explores her experience navigating the postcolonial world as a stranger in one’s own land.  After the performance, Safia shared some insight about her creative process and what inspires her work in a Q&A session. . At the same time, she reflected on what it is like being a postcolonial artist and how her immigrant history has informed her own work. 

To learn more about Safia’s wonderful work, click here