“A dynamic, shape-shifting machine of perpetual motion that reveals poignant observance.” –Booklist
“Bashir looks directly into the eye of blackness, death, slavery, American history, and beauty without budging.” – Lambda Literary
Sometimes Samiya Bashir makes poems of dirt. Sometimes zeros and ones. Sometimes variously rendered text. Sometimes light. Her work has been widely published, performed, installed, printed, screened, experienced, and Oxford comma’d.
Bashir’s most recent book of poetry, Field Theories, wends its way through quantum mechanics, chicken wings and Newports, melding blackbody theory with real live Black bodies in poems that span lyric, narrative, dramatic, and multi-media experience, engaging their containers while pushing against their constraints. Hyperallergic 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. dynamic, shape-shifting machine of perpetual motion.” During the six months leading up to the release of Field Theories, Bashir created six short videopoems in collaboration with video artist Roland Dahwen Wu and dancer Keyon Gaskin to remix and reimagine the work through a new medium: sound & image & light.
Norse gods, Ghanaian call and response, and black gospel all contribute to an exploration of the sensual world in Gospel (2009), her second collection which, along with Where the Apple Falls (2005) was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Blackademics reviewer Alexis Pauline Gumbs described the collection as a “close look at the infinite places and moments when the human body meets despair, pleasure and transcendence.” Bashir is also the author of the chapbooks Wearing Shorts on the First Day of Spring (1999), American Visa (2001), and Teasing Crow (2006). Bashir is also editor of Best Black Women’s Erotica II, and co-editor of Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art, with Tony Medina and Quraysh Ali Lansana.
Bashir holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as Poet Laureate, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she received two Hopwood Poetry Awards. In October 2017 she was awarded the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature in recognition of individual artistic achievement and excellence to sustain and enhance her creative process. She has been the recipient of numerous other awards, grants, fellowships, and residencies, and is a founding organizer of Fire & Ink, an advocacy organization and writer’s festival for LGBT writers of African descent.
Bashir lives in Portland, Oregon where she teaches at Reed College.
Samiya Bashir is the author of three collections of poetry Field Theories (2018), Gospel (2009), and Where the Apple Falls (2005), which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in Poetry. She is also the author of the chapbooks Wearing Shorts on the First Day of Spring (1999), American Visa (2001), and Teasing Crow (2006). Her poetry, stories, articles and editorial work have been featured in numerous publications most recently including Poetry, World Literature Today, Ecotone, HOAX, The Normal School, Poet Lore, Callaloo, and The Encyclopedia Project. Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, including War Diaries, Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica , and the Cave Canem Anthology: VII. She holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as Poet Laureate, and an MFA from the University of Michigan. Bashir lives in Portland, Oregon where she teaches at Reed College.
FIELD THEORIES (Poetry, 2017)
Field Theories wends its way through quantum mechanics, chicken wings and Newports, love and a shoulder’s chill, melding blackbody theory (idealized perfect absorption, as opposed to the whitebody’s idealized reflection) with real live Black bodies. Albert Murray said, “the second law of thermodynamics ain’t nothing but the blues.” So what is the blue of how we treat each other, ourselves, of what this world does to us, of what we do to this shared world? Woven through experimental lyrics is a heroic crown of sonnets that wonders about love and intent, identity and hybridity, and how we embody these interstices and for what reasons and to what ends.
if this is a game then we have made it, unknowing,
to the final four. unlikely underdogs. spectators turned
to suspect sport. anti-athletes. out of shape beyond reason.
at season’s height we fight for a limited audience. few dancers.
fewer cheers. down by 30 and our coach m.i.a. we, foolish, dribble.
each bounce-back brings a stranger. can’t call us for traveling because
we ain’t going nowhere. instead, we trade terrified looks. search
for the pass but no one stays open for long. even if we knew what to do
to pull this through we’ve got two other teams waiting, impatient, to take us out.
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