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Arisa White

Years: 2003, 2005, 2008


Arisa White received her MFA from UMass, Amherst, and is the author of Perfect on Accident, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, Black PearlPost PardonA Penny Saved, and Hurrah's Nest. Her poetry has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, NAACP Image Award, California Book Award and Wheatley Book Award. The chapbook “Fish Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won the inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. She's the co-author of Biddy Mason Speaks Up, the second book in the Fighting for Justice series for young readers. As the creator of the Beautiful Things Project, Arisa curates cultural events and artistic collaborations that center narratives of queer and trans people of color. Arisa is on the advisory board for Gertrude and serves on the board of directors for Foglifter and Nomadic Press. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Colby College.


After Watching Obama Win His First Presidency, We Go See Tina Tuna


You take Anna Mae’s stage name and make it fish.

Dressed in tulle and sparkle, in platform stilettos,

drag Tina, more masculine than her muscles can ever be

into a river so queer the water maquillages our faces.


I’m a clap waiting to happen. Your hands, thick and brimming,

articulate the beat of our bodies meeting—the church wakes

in my chest, the choir quivers with Tina Turner’s lips. Your mouth

around every note without your baritone pouring into that hoarse hook


about breaking and staying. How do you not sink into the song

until it grins with your teeth? Between your hard cleavage, I slip

a five into the wailing aperture found in any woman’s heart,

into the part of the sun we don’t see as blue.