Safia Elhillo


Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award, Girls That Never Die (One World/Random House 2021), and the novel in verse Home Is Not A Country (Make Me A World/Random House, 2021). Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, she holds an MFA from The New School, a Cave Canem Fellowship, and a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Safia is a Pushcart Prize nominee (receiving a special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize), co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30.” Safia’s work appears in POETRY Magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series, among others, and in anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and The Penguin Book of Migration Literature. Her work has been translated into several languages, and commissioned by Under Armour, Cuyana, and the Bavarian State Ballet. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019). She is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland. Source

Ode to Gossips

i was mothered by lonely women       some

of  them wives     some of them             with


plumes of  smoke for husbands    all    lonely

smelling of  onions & milk         all mothers


some of them to children some to old names

phantom girls acting out a life        only half


a life away      instead        copper kitchenware

bangles pushed up the arm    fingernails rusted


with henna          kneading raw meat with salt

with coriander                     sweating upper lip


in the steam       weak tea          hair unwound

against the nape         my deities      each one


sandal slapping against stone heel      sandal-

wood & oud                    bright chiffon spun


about each head     coffee in the dowry china

butter biscuits on a painted plate      crumbs


suspended in eggshell demitasse       & they

begin                  i heard       people are saying


i saw it with my own eyes       [      ]’s daughter

a scandal                  she was wearing [      ]


& not wearing [   ]            can you imagine

a shame                                             a shame





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:





Intersectionality & Culture

Literary Devices:


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


a break between words within a metrical foot


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic

Sensory Detail

words used to invoke the five senses (vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell)