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Safia Elhillo

Years: 2014, 2015, 2017


A Pushcart Prize nominee, Safia Elhillo is Sudanese by way of Washington, DC. A Cave Canem fellow who received an MFA in poetry from The New School, her debut The January Childern (University of Nebraska Press, 2017) is praised by Kwame Dawes as “The first sound of what will be a remarkable noise in African poetry." Recipient of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Elhillo's work appears in several publications, including POETRY Magazine, Callaloo, the anthologies The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Again I Wait for This to Pull Apart. Her additional fellowships include that with The Conversation, and Crescendo Literary and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator. She has shared her work at such venues as the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, the Kennedy Center, the South African State Theatre and TEDxNewYork.




the arabic word هواء   /hawameans wind

the arabic word هوى   /hawa/ means love

test: [multiple choice]

abdelhalim said          you left me holding wind in my hands


abdelhalim said          you left me holding love in my hands

abdelhalim was left                empty


abdelhalim was left                full

fairouz said                 o wind take me to my country


fairouz said                 o love  take me to my country

fairouz is looking for              vehicle


fairouz is looking for              fuel

oum kalthoum said     where the wind stops her ships   we stop ours


oum kalthoum said     where love stops her ships    we stop ours

oum kalthoum is                     stuck


oum kalthoum is                     home


the lovers


khartoum in the eighties

my mother with ribbons in her hair

dress fanning about her nutmeg calves


my father

who i hear

was so lively & handsome

that only bad magic could have emptied

& filled him with smoke


the borrowed record player

the generation that would leave

to make nostalgia of these nights

to hyphenate their children

& grow gnarled by

every winter


but tonight motown crackling

into the hot twilight

mosquitoes drifting

near the lanterns

my parents dance

without touching