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


i was born i was planted


          the rupture the root where land became ocean became land anew


      i split from my parallel self  i split from its shape refusing root in my fallow mouth


       the girl i also could have been cleaving my life neatly


       & her name / easy / i know the story & my name / taken from a dead woman


  all her life / my mother wanted to remember / to fill an aperture with 


a girl named for a flower cut jasmine in a bowl


        whose oil scents all our longing


      our mothers / our mothers’


        petals wrung wilting


for their perfume garlands hanging from our necks





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Childhood & Coming of Age


Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


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


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

Sensory Detail

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

Transferred Epithet

When an adjective usually used to describe one thing is transferred to another.