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


smelling of orange rind of cardamom

     most beautiful girls in the world wake up [  ]

we're getting waffles you can keep crying


but you're going out my marriages

     my alibis my bright & hardy stalks

of protea     & all i know of love i learned


at thirteen dialing basma's home phone

     by heart      to three-way call whatever boy

so that weeks later when the phone bill came


only basma's familiar number beside the time stamp

     clearing my name basma herself staying awake

for hours     to hang up the phone after


you who send pictures of your rashes

     to the group text & long voice notes

from the bathtub      your laughter echoing against the tiles


you who scatter the world's map piling into

     cheap buses & budget airlines four of us asleep

in my dorm bed six of us overflowing


my studio apartment false lashes for weeks after

      like commas in my every pillowcase you clog my toilet

& admit it you text me screenshots


from the gucci fashion show getting rich

      so i can get u this   & when i lived alone

& that man followed me


one night home from the six train

     up lexington      & into the hallway

tried for hours to break open my front door


you took turns from all your cities & stayed

     overnight with me on the phone for three days

snoring & murmuring in your sleep





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Love & Relationships

Memory & The Past

Literary Devices:


conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


A stanza of three lines of verse that rhyme together or are connected by rhyme with an adjacent stanza.