The Stripes has published an interview with 2016 Sillerman Prize winner Safia Elhillo in which she discusses “Writing While Black.” In the interview, Elhillo describes her positive experience at Cave Canem and explains why she thinks this moment is unique for black writers. Elhillo also discusses the ways in which assumptions about an author based on race can have adverse effects on a career, including in the workshop:
“It was like no one wanted to critique my work because they were afraid they might sound racist. The feedback would often be something like: ‘Oh, this is such a beautiful depiction of your culture.’ Meanwhile, the poem would not be about my culture. But I wanted to know – do my metaphors suck? Are these line breaks correct? My work was being treated anthropologically instead of as a piece of work to be crafted.”
The entire interview can be read here.
Elhillo was also recently profiled at Brittle Paper.