Safia Elhillo

Safia Elhillo

About Safia Elhillo

Safia Elhillo (born December 16, 1990) is a Sudanese-American poet. She is the author of two poetry books The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017) and Home Is Not A Country (Penguin Random House, 2021). Hailed by critics, She won the Arab American Book Award, the George Ellenbogen Poetry Award and the Sillerman Prize for African Poet. In The January Children, Elhillo explores the themes of belonging, identity, bilingualism, nationality in touch with colonial dominance, dictatorships, the resulting diasporas. One of the prisms used is that of the intertwining of the personal history of her family with the history of Sudan. Thus, the title of this collection refers to the generation of Sudanese children born under British domination, that of the grandparents of Safia Elhillo, whose date of birth was automatically attributed to January 1 when their year of birth was decided according to their size. Elhillo also relies, to translate the link between Arabicity and Africanicity, on the figure of Abdel Halim Hafez, an egyptian singer of the mid-20th century who dedicated many of his songs to Asmarani, an Arabic term for dark-skinned people. In her other works the subjects are taken from love and its absence, unsatisfied desires and the hunting instinct of men.
Elhillo is internationally invited to perform her texts on stage. She is one of the 30 important artistic personalities of Africa, according to Forbes magazine. Her poems have been published in numerous journals, including Poetry, Callaloo, the Academy of American Poets, but also in anthologies, notably The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana and Nate Marshalle at Hayarket Books and Things We Inherited: Voices from Africa edited by Liyou Libsekal at Cordite editions. Her poems have been translated into Arabic, Japanese, Estonian, Portuguese and Greek.
Elhillo has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, receiving special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize.
She currently lives in Washington D.C. and coordinates, with Fatimah Asghar, the anthology Halal If You Hear Me.

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