With Safia Elhillo

After seeing Safia Elhillo perform at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe several years ago, I became a huge fan and have been following her writing career ever since. When I got the opportunity to sit down with her, she told me that she had been tricked into trying out for the slam team, “My friend said it was an open-mic. So I went and I thought it was an open-mic, but then they were throwing up numbers.” She laughed, “and than I made the team.” Talking about the subject of her poetry she shares, “I’m pretty comfortable getting personal in my poetry as long as I know that it is only going to exist in that space and in that moment. And than afterwards I can pretend it never happened.” On her experiences with poetry and performance she says, “I’ve learned that you’re responsible for your own story. If you don’t tell it yourself you can’t really expect anyone else to tell it for you. Everyone has a story and it’s nice to be able to tell yours. It carves out a place in the world for you.”

“When you have an audience you have a responsibility to tell the truth.”

Poet Safia Elhillo is a Gallatin senior from Khartoum, Sudan, by way of Washington, D.C. She is one of the founding members of SLAM! NYU, along with Eric Silver, Matthew ‘Spitnice’ Sparacino and Tonya Ingram. Her first chapbook, The Life and Times of Susie Knuckles, was recently published by Well&Often Press. Elhillo was a finalist in the 2011 Women of the World Poetry Slam and has performed at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Yale University, Columbia College, the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, and the Nuyorican Poets’ Café.

Safia Elhillo performs “Egypt”