At our best, poets write with an awareness and a respect for those who came before. On this Día de Los Muertos, November 2nd, I share the link to three recently published poems at Spoken Black Girl Mag. The editors gifted me with this introduction: “Safia’s work speaks to that connection to the otherworldly, the deep recesses of our collective memories and the power of the imaginative spirit to heal.” I invite you to read the full introduction and all three poems when you have a quiet moment to yourself. Take care.
On November 3, 2018, I will be performing for the QUEENSBOUND project, which will launch with a reading on the 7 line and reception at the Queens Museum.
QUEENSBOUND Reading and Site Launch – 11/3 at 2 pm
The 7 train, first car
Here I am, filming a segment for the CUNY TV series “Shades of U.S.” Gratitude to the producer Darrell Brown, pictured above, for helping me to tell my story as a poet from a multiracial family. UPDATE: The show will air October 18th, 2018 and streaming on October 19th onward. More info: http://tv.cuny.edu/show/shadesofus/PR2007865
“Underpainting” and “Tenth Birthday” have been baking for years. Here they are now, at last ready for your consumption. Thanks, as always, for reading: https://cagibilit.com/safia-jama-two-poems/
I invite you to read my poem in the latest issue of Under a Warm Green Linden, an online journal with a long and lovely name that plants trees. My poem is titled “This Old House” and it was partly inspired by a certain 1980s TV show on PBS that was hosted by Bob Vila. Well, at least, that is the conceit. I don’t want to perpetuate gender stereotypes here, but based on my anecdotal experience sharing it on Twitter, I’ve noticed that this poem resonates most with dudes. Whatever your gender, thanks for reading. Click on the little button and you can hear me read the poem rather dramatically as well. -Safia
P.S. Did you know that Linden trees are edible and soothe a sore throat? I just learned that.
BOMB Magazine has graciously published three of my poems: “South with Wildflowers,” “Self-Portrait as an Agnes Martin Painting,” and “The Victorian Era.” As for this photo, I took it in the City of New Orleans public park a couple years ago, and this is what inspired the line: “I tend to my fallacies like this field of yellow petals.”
Thanks, as always, for reading.
I wrote this letter three years ago, perhaps misunderstanding our student activist assignment to write letters of protest to oppressive regimes. Reading it now, my words seem so inadequate, especially given the recent news that Liu Xiaobo has died a prisoner of conscience. Did I even send it to the correct address? Likely, not. Was I mostly thinking of myself, my own woes, as I wrote it? Probably so, and struggling with how to reconcile my art with my activism. Reading it now feels a bit like a child’s school report. And yet, writing the letter changed me for the better. Rest in peace, Liu Xiaobo. (1955-2017).
Dear Liu Xiaobo,
I am writing this letter to express my sadness and anger that you have been imprisoned, and also to extend a few humble words of support for your life and work as a poet.
I’m sitting in a café in Greenwich Village with two fellow writers. We met here today to each write letters as part of PEN’s Defending Writers campaign.
I can’t say that I’ve been an activist in my life. And yet, I have made a commitment to a life of poetry. In my mind, that is also a commitment to a life in search of the truth, and bringing that truth out into the light of day.
Wanting to learn more about you, I stumbled upon an essay by Nick Admussen, published in Boston Review a couple years ago. I read the words Lia Xia, your wife: “I have not come to view Xiaobo as a political figure. In my eyes, he has always been and will always be an awkward and diligent poet.”
As I complete my graduate work in the next couple of weeks, I will return to both those words and the poetry you have written. I will strive to be more “awkward and diligent” in my own poetry. I will also draw inspiration from these words, the final stanzas from your poem “Experiencing Death”:
Countless nights behind iron-barred windows
and the graves beneath starlight
have exposed my nightmares
Besides a lie
I own nothing
These lines draw something new into my world. Reading them changes me in some fundamental way I cannot yet understand—the power of lies. To recognize a lie can mean intellectual freedom. It can change a person’s life and a country’s future.
From New York, I send gratitude for your work and urgently call for your release from prison.
New York City