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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


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

By This Poet


John Henry crosses the threshold—

Everyone up here called me crazy but
I couldn’t do nothing but what seemed right.
Crazy to fight—maybe—maybe crazy
enough to win. Every day I crouch down

into that bend I know I might not creep
out again. Tunnels eat men like penance—
like payment for letting us through       I knew
my life would be short would be fast but each

shaft of light that snuck through the cracks I smacked
in them walls kept me going and led me

right back—swinging—up this yap and folks thought
I was crazy try’n’a dream us up a
future even if I couldn’t see it
through all that dust       those sudden
                                                                           shouts and screams.

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.

Manistee light

Brother I don’t either understand
this skipscrapple world –

these slick bubble cars zip feverish
down rushes of notcorn of notbeets

notcabbage and the land and the land –

you should know, man, nothing
grows down here anymore except

walloped wishes and their gouged out
oil cans. Where notbloodroot spans us

sit towers land mined in the sand.
They twist us. They tornado us. No –

Do spring breezes bring the scent of smelt?

Remember? Even on strike our mother
gathered smelt by their fingery bagfuls

and fried them whole. I wish I knew
how she did it. It was almost enough.