Safia Elhillo was a freshman in high school when she started keeping a diary to record her heartbreaks. All of her entries were poems, so if her parent ever found them, she could hide behind the metaphors and pretend she wasn’t dating.
Younger poets of color now look up to Elhillo as a trailblazer. Her latest poetry collection, “January Children,” tackles the complications of diaspora and language rooted in her identity as a Sudanese American writer.
You don’t need a master of fine arts degree to write poetry, Elhillo said. Poetry doesn’t require more than a pen and a piece of paper.
Last summer, Elhillo led a number of free writing workshops through Not a Cult Media, the indie publisher where she’s an editor.
“It would really break my heart to feel like someone didn’t have access to poetry resources because of prohibitive costs since so many of the resources I received as a young person, that made me into a poet, were free,” said Elhillo. “So I try to offer workshop resources for free whenever possible.”
Jumping into poetry can feel like high diving. Here’s some advice from Elhillo and fellow poets Matthew “Cuban” Hernandez, Alyesha Wise, Noor Hindi, Gabriel Cortez and Ariana Brown to help you overcome your fear of heights — and tell you how deep poetry flows.