15 Nov 2022 11:00

Safia Elhillo on Vulnerability and Anger in “Girls That Never Die”

The poet Safia Elhillo first found her voice onstage, performing in youth poetry slams in Washington, D.C., where she grew up, the child of Sudanese immigrants. She published her first collection in 2017, and in 2021 her novel in verse, “Home Is Not a Country,” was long-listed for the National Book Award. She’s now out with a new collection, “Girls That Never Die,” which she characterizes as her most personal and vulnerable work yet. It responds to some of the backlash she received online after her earlier work was published. “Before this book, I think I had really clear rules for myself about what I was and was not allowed to write poetry about. And my body was one of the things that I was not allowed to write poetry about,” Elhillo tells Dana Goodyear. “I think I really had to sit down and dismantle this idea that if I was polite enough, respectful enough, modest enough, quiet enough, silent enough—that nobody would ever want to do me harm.”


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