“I believe that naming is a claiming act- that, in giving something a name, in choosing the word(s) through which we will continue to identify this thing, it becomes ours in this small way. Having a vocabulary for an experience puts us a little less at its mercy. I believe that a poem is an extended naming, a reversed synthesis that takes all of these pieces that have, for eternity, been lashed together and deemed “love” or “sadness” or “trauma,” and spills out everything that has been locked behind their one-word name. A one-word name is a means of codification; a multi-word name is a poem.
I write extensively about loss- not in mourning, but in hopes of reclaiming. I name and rename all my lost things and, by doing so, make them present (an incantation). I believe that a poem can bring back what is lost- not in its tangible form, but a vivid enough ghost to remind us of its presence rather than of its absence. In developing the presence of what has been lost, I am making room for it, and in making room for it, I am orienting myself. In my work, I want you to visit my house and look at my things, to read my map of lost and found.”
Safia Elhillo is Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, currently living in New York City. Safia is a Cave Canem fellow, and is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at the New School. She is an alum of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in “Poetry as a Tool for Therapy” and a minor in Middle Eastern Studies, and is a founding member of Slam NYU, the 2012 and 2013 national collegiate championship slam team. Safia was a three-time member and former coach of the DC youth slam team, and is a poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly: a journal of black expression. Her work appears or is forthcoming in As/Us magazine, Vinyl Poetry, Bird’s Thumb, and season 3 of Verses & Flow on TV1. Her chapbook, The Life and Times of Susie Knuckles, was published in 2012 by Well&Often Press