Leila Chatti


Leila Chatti was born in 1990 in Oakland, California. A Tunisian-American dual citizen, she has lived in the United States, Tunisia, and Southern France. She is the author of the debut full-length collection Deluge (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), on the longlist for the 2021 PEN Open Book Award, and the chapbooks Ebb (New-Generation African Poets) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editors’ Selection from Bull City Press. She holds a B.A. from the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University and an M.F.A. from North Carolina State University, where she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. She is the recipient of grants from the NEA, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, and fellowships and scholarships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, The Frost Place Conference on Poetry, the Key West Literary Seminars, Dickinson House, and Cleveland State University, where she was the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Writing and Publishing. Her poems have received prizes from Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest, Narrative’s 30 Below Contest, and the Pushcart Prize, among others, and appear in The New York Times Magazine, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, POETRY, Ploughshares, The Rumpus, Best New Poets (2015 & 2017), and other journals and anthologies. In 2017, she was shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. She currently serves as the Consulting Poetry Editor at the Raleigh Review and teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is the Mendota Lecturer in Poetry. Source


Five times a day, I make tea. I do this

because I like the warmth in my hands, like the feeling

of self-directed kindness. I’m not used to it—

warmth and kindness, both—so I create my own

when I can. It’s easy. You just pour

water into a kettle and turn the knob and listen

for the scream. I do this

five times a day. Sometimes, when I’m pleased,

I let out a little sound. A poet noticed this

and it made me feel I might one day

properly be loved. Because no one is here

to love me, I make tea for myself

and leave the radio playing. I must

remind myself I am here, and do so

by noticing myself: my feet are cold

inside my socks, they touch the ground, my stomach

churns, my heart stutters, in my hands I hold

a warmth I make. I come from

a people who pray five times a day

and make tea. I admire the way they do

both. How they drop to the ground

wherever they are. Drop

pine nuts and mint sprigs in a glass.

I think to care for the self

is a kind of prayer. It is a gesture

of devotion toward what is not always beloved

or believed. I do not always believe

in myself, or love myself, I am sure

there are times I am bad or gone

or lying. In another’s mouth, tea often means gossip,

but sometimes means truth. Despite

the trope, in my experience my people do not lie

for pleasure, or when they should,

even when it might be a gesture

of kindness. But they are kind. If you were

to visit, a woman would bring you

a tray of tea. At any time of day.

My people love tea so much

it was once considered a sickness. Their colonizers

tried, as with any joy, to snuff it out. They feared a love

so strong one might sell or kill their other

loves for leaves and sugar. Teaism

sounds like a kind of faith

I’d buy into, a god I wouldn’t fear. I think now I truly believe

I wouldn’t kill anyone for love,

not even myself—most days

I can barely get out of bed. So I make tea.

I stand at the window while I wait.

My feet are cold and the radio plays its little sounds.

I do the small thing I know how to do

to care for myself. I am trying to notice joy,

which means survive. I do this all day, and then the next.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:


Faith & Hope


Intersectionality & Culture

Joy & Praise

Mental Health

Poems of the Everyday

Literary Devices:

Extended Metaphor

a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times

Varied syntax

diverse sentence structure