Poet To Watch: Alysia Harris
Poet to Watch: Alysia Harris…
…is not new to the game. A member of the spoken word collective The Strivers Row Poets, Harris performs poetry with her fellow members Joshua Bennett , Miles Hodges, Zora Howard, and Carvens Lissaint as well as on her own as an individual act. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a PhD from Yale University and is an MFA student at NYU. Also, she was featured in the HBO Documentary Russell Simmons Presents: Brave New Voices.
What I enjoy most about Harris’s poetry is the strangeness of imagery. There are some wild, beautiful moments in her work that create a new scope for commonly-explored ideas such as love, vulnerability, sex, and death that in lesser hands could easily fall into the mundane. It’s not easy turning such abstract concepts into something fresh but she does it with lines like:
from her Stephen Dunn Prize winning poem “Crow’s Sugar”
“I stole a watermelon from your kitchen. I must have been about 18.
I’m thinking of a black-eyed angel.
The other boys said you weren’t worth your salt if you weren’t tasting me.
I hid my virginity under my shirt. And that summer we sang
like we had azaleas bottlenecked in our throats
when we’d catch a storm from the porch, our laundry swung on the muscular thunder.”
from her poem “When I Look at You Without Speaking I’m Drawing a Map“, (line breaks my own)
“So if immigrating is loving two women,
which one of us do you dream in?”
from her poem “The Happy Couple (Death Poem)“
“There will come a day when the fear of death will be the favorite joke past amongst corpses.”
Without nerding out too hard I just have to say that writing with this kind of passion (you HAVE to see her perform) and this level of craft (some of the repetition in “Crow’s Sugar” is stupid fresh and enviable) is a rare gift and worth celebrating. Alysia Harris is a poet to watch and I will surely have my eye out for more of her work wherever I can find it. Please check her out and share your thoughts!
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