Safia Elhillo was born in Rockville, Maryland in 1990 to Sudanese parents. Her writing explores the nuances between belonging and exile, and the conflict between identity and home. She has appeared in many literary publications, including Poetry, Callaloo, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Series. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was the co-winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize, won the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, and has received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, The Conversation, and SPACE on Ryder Farm, among others. Currently, her collection, The January Children, won a 2018 Arab American Book Award, receiving the George Ellenbogen Poetry Award. Her future work, partnered with Fatimah Asghar, Halal If You Hear Me, is an anthology of written by underrepresented Muslim voices: women, queer, trans, and non-conforming writers, due out in April 2019.
I met her in early January on a sidewalk in Missoula, Montana. It was only nine but it felt past midnight, the dark and cold thrumming along my skin, the stars dagger points suspended in the frozen air. A puff of air came from her mouth as she said her name and extended her mittened hand. I offered my own name puff and reached back. The snow crunched beneath our boots as we parted ways, hurrying to our vehicles.