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Samiya Bashir

Samiya Bashir holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA from the University of Michigan. She is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017), winner of the Oregon Book Awards' 2018 Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry. It's title poem was awarded a Pushcart Prize. She is also the co-editor of Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art, with Tony Medina and Quraysh Ali Lansana.

Of her poetry, poet Marcella Dyrand writes, "Samiya Bashir challenges the vocabulary of science, finding inflections and echoes within that vocabulary of the long and brutal history of race and racially based economic exploitation in the U.S.A." 

In 2019, Bashir was awarded the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize for literature from the American Academy in Rome. She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Astraea Foundation, Cave Canem, Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National League of American Pen Women, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, among others. She is is a founding organizer of Fire & Ink, an advocacy organization and writers festival for LGBT writers of African descent. She has collaborated internationally with artists like Sculptor Alison Saar, video artist Roland Dahwen Wu, and dancer Kenyon Gaskin. Bashir was the Poem-a-Day Guest Editor in June 2019, and is an associate professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she lives. 

 


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017)
Gospel (RedBone Press, 2009)
Where the Apple Falls (RedBone Press, 2005)

By This Poet

6

At Harlem Hospital across the street from the Schomburg the only thing to eat is a Big Mac

after Z. S.

Still, somehow we are
carousel. We spin bodies
to the wall and back.

We are woman and
man and man. We
are surgeon and

operation. We are
everybody we love.
We are inside them.

We are inside and we
are laughing. We are
man and we will die too.

We know that much.
We are our own
shadow. We are want

of touch. We are woman
and man and man don’t look.
We are curvature—look!

We are train.
We are star.
We are big

tiny spiders. We are
crawling. We are biting.
We are hungry. We are

a stopped carousel. We are
bodies dropped to the floor.
We are shaking. We are our own.

Still, somehow, we are
laughter. We are the doorway out.
We are (again) the doorway in.

Second law

Who was warned about these things:
the neverhush, the maddening chafe
sliding down a reddened bridge, print
disappearing            disappearing?

Who was told how to brook it?
The houndstooth stench of olding.
That time just runs itself out. That
we Sisyphus ourselves to glasses,
hobble wreckage down stair
after bricky stair. 

That once we leave home—its gaseous
oven—that once we walk the same slow
steps as our hide-and-seek sun that
once we face our anti-lovers’ anti-gaze:
bright, open, later, now eyes smoldered
coats swept open to flash our own
scarred bellies our own hot hands
ablaze with spent matches with burnt-out
love —

Remember love? 

How it loosed its jaw to our kisses?
How it unhinged us? How it tried us 

like so many keys like so many rusted
locks? How it missed its target despite its
kicking? How maybe its force could kill us?

Without it what’s left day after day
to trundle our legs? What’s left to push
breath ragged and torn from our lungs?

Who was warned
how these solar winds would leave us
brown and bruised as apples over-
-ripe host and blowsy      seed dis-
appearing     disappearing?

Were you?

Me too.

You’re really faithful to your abusers, aren’t you?

Like love: first you pick up; then you lay down; then discard; then discard; then discard. That’s love. Right? Did somebody say Dominoes? The problem of a street game is you. You’re already doing it wrong. Doing it wrong before you wake up. Before you walk up the street. Cross the crowded corner. Case in point: When you reach the bones table, you stop. Stare. Consider. Count. Think: This is a lovely afternoon for a friendly game of dominoes! Call next. Figure they don’t hear. Call next again. You call louder. You call in Spanish. Then you walk (again, with the walking) into the bodega. Come out with four 40oz bottles. Suddenly somebody hears. Suddenly the smell of holes burning pockets. Suddenly, the game you watch ends. Like love. Right? Somebody?