Who is A?

Photo 189

A is for Arisa.

My father named me.

I later learned Arisa means “to know when it’s enough.”

After completing my graduate study at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where I received my MFA in poetry, I moved out West. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, I needed to venture elsewhere to put into practice who I believed I was as a poet. I want my poetry to be broadened by my interactions with the world and the communities in which I live. My life, and the lives of others, has taught me a great deal about human struggles and triumphs. Being African American, queer, and a woman has deepened and informed my poetry, and as I continue to grow as a writer and individual, I’ve learned to uncover a self and poetic voice not limited to, or held by, social labels.

I’m an active citizen through my poetry: I teach and share it, enrich it through collaborations with choreographers, theater artists, and musicians, and use it to become socially engaged. From working with and being in community, I’ve learned self-discipline, gentleness, accountability—how I show up for others and myself. I’ve expanded my capacity for patience and letting go, and all of these lessons have refined my artistic and writing processes.

I use my poetry as a vehicle to go beyond the surface, to recover and restore, and create authentic relationships that leave the world a little bit more just.

I’m a Cave Canem fellow and  the author of the chapbooks Disposition for Shininess and Post Pardon (which I adapted into an opera), as well as the full-length collections Hurrah’s Nest and A Penny Saved. My debut collection, Hurrah’s Nest, won the 2012 San Francisco Book Festival Award for poetry and was nominated for a 44th NAACP Image Award, the 82nd California Book Awards, and the 2013 Wheatley Book Awards.

As a member of the PlayGround writers’ pool, my play Frigidare was staged for the 15th Annual Best of PlayGround Festival. I’m one of the founding editors of HER KIND, an online literary community powered by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and I’ve  received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from Headlands Center for the Arts, Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Rose O’Neill Literary House, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

I’m delighted to be an advisory board member for Flying Object, and a BFA in Creative Writing faculty member at Goddard College. My poetry has been widely published and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet. I live  in Oakland, CA, with my lovely wife.

Visit my author’s website to learn more about my work: arisawhite.com.

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