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

how to say

in the divorce i separate to two piles              books: english  love songs: arabic

my angers   my schooling my long repeating name    english english     arabic


i am someone’s daughter but i am american born    it shows in my short memory

my ahistoric glamour my clumsy tongue when i forget the word for [   ] in arabic


i sleep      unbroken dark hours on airplanes home        & dream i’ve missed my

connecting flight  i dream a new & fluent mouth full of gauzy swathes of arabic


i dream my alternate selves            each with a face borrowed from photographs of

the girl who became my grandmother   brows & body rounded & cursive like arabic


but wake to the usual borderlands i crowd shining slivers of english to my mouth

iris    crocus   inlet   heron         how dare i love a word without knowing it in arabic


& what even is translation    is immigration    without irony      safia

means pure        all my life it’s been true        even in my clouded arabic





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:





Intersectionality & Culture

Poetic Form

Literary Devices:


the absence of a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so…) between phrases and within a sentence


a break between words within a metrical foot

Varied Punctuation

diverse use of punctuation.