Wu Chen Recommends...Safia Elhillo

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I used to read a lot of poetry. It had largely drifted off for me, but then two things happened: I read Omar Musa’s astounding Here Come the Dogs (which I have previously Recommended), and we had kids.

Now I was reading poetry all the time again and I couldn’t get enough. I tore through old favourites and I borrowed a lot of new stuff via the Hennepin County e-book system. I wandered onto poetry review and criticism sites and found more folks to read.

And then I stumbled on Safia Elhillo.

Her imagery is vivid and crisp; no lush rolling tones and sweeps like a Wordsworth here. The pacing is fast and almost pushes you along so fast that you swear time stands still then just warps like a whiplash to catch up. I love it.

Her imagination, storytelling and extremely thoughtful examinations span a massive range of subjects: war, parties, music, colonialism, lovers, history, discrimination, power... her intelligence is palpable and relatable.

Even if you’re not someone who thinks of themselves as a poetry fan (and I think that largely has to do with how “poetry” is usually defined, packaged and presented; Cat in the Hat, just about all of Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, just about every Epic out there from all over the world, heck, just about every set of lyrics in modern musical genres are all poetry), check out her work.