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, 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 in poems that span lyric, narrative, dramatic, and multi-media experience, engaging their containers while pushing against their constraints.
“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,” wrote Marcella Durand for Hyperallergic.
Albert Murray said, “the second law of thermodynamics ain’t nothing but the blues.” Field Theories asks 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 in poems which “creat[ing] cognitive openings,” wrote Durand, “for understanding how science, history, life and poetry intersect.”
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 (Patua Films) and dancer Keyon Gaskin (Physical Education) 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, her second collection which, along with Where the Apple Falls 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 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.
She has collaborated with a number of visual and media artists on projects such as M A P S :: a cartography in progress, with Roland Dahwen Wu, Coronagraphy with Tracy Schlapp, and Bashir has collaborated on a number of multimedia poetry and art projects including M A P S :: a cartography in progress, and Silt, Soot, and Smut, with Alison Saar, both of which travel the country in exhibition and performance. Bashir has most recently collaborated with Saar and Schlapp on Hades D.W.P., a forthcoming limited edition artists’ book.
Formerly a long-time communications professional focused on editorial, arts, and social justice movement building, Bashir now lives in Portland, Oregon, with a magic cat who shares her love of trees and blackbirds, and who occasionally crashes her classes and poetry salons at Reed College.
Samiya Bashir’s books of poetry: Field Theories, Gospel, and Where the Apple Falls, and anthologies, including Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art, exist.
Sometimes she makes poems of dirt.
Sometimes zeros and ones.
Sometimes variously rendered text.
She lives in Portland, Ore, with a magic cat who shares her obsession with trees and blackbirds and occasionally crashes her classes and poetry salons at Reed College.
Select Recent Readings + Presentations
Thinking Its Presence (Tucson), NonfictionNow (Reykjavik), &Now (CalArts), Yari Yari Ntoaso (Ghana), Split This Rock Poetry Festival (DC), AWP (Various), Fire & Ink Festival for LGBT Writers of African Descent (Co-founder: Chicago / Austin / Detroit), Joe’s Pub (NYC), Museum of Contemporary Craft (Portland), Museum of Performance & Design (San Francisco), Studio Museum (New York), Mepfestival (Netherlands), More + More
| 2017 |
- Individual Artists Fellowship, Regional Arts & Culture Council, 2017
- 15m=?, Time Based Art Festival, Portland Institute of Creative Art
- (self) curated by Reed College and John and Anne Hauberg Curator and Director Stephanie Snyder and Samiya Bashir
- Poetic Migrations, Northwest Film Center, 2017
- The Pen Ten with Samiya Bashir, 2017
- "this poem does not exist," Thinking Its Presence, Tucson, 2017
- "Samiya Bashir Will Smash Your Definition of Poetry at TBA," Portland Monthly, 2017
| 2016 |
- "M A P S :: a cartography in progress," Clockhouse Journal, Vol. 4, 2016
- "Field theories," "Notions of temperature," "Sometimes in a body," "Sore broken in the place of dragons," and "You don't have to pump the breaks you just gotta keep your eyes on the road," Drunken Boat, #24
- "Synchronous Rotation," Portland Monthly
- “Blackbody Curve,” Poetry Magazine
- "Paleontology," and "Third Law," The Offing Magazine
- "When I Say Radiation I Mean Light That You Cannot Contain," Tuesday; An Art Project, Issue 6:2
- "Silt, Soot, and Smut," collaboration with Alison Saar, LA Louver Gallery
| 2015 |
- “A Small Matter of Engineering,” Ecotone Magazine
- "Upon such rocks," Bone Bouquet, Issue 6.2
- "Ha ha ha n*gg*rs are the worst," Nepantla, Issue #2
- “We call it dark matter because it doesn’t interact with light,” “Atoms in Motion,” “Five Tips for Looking Your Best Through Civil Unrest,” “Quadratic Equation,” The Normal School
- “SOMETIMES KATE GORMAN EMAILS ME,” Hoax
| 2014 |
- “Consequences of the Laws of Thermodynamics,” “Carnot Cycle,” Poetry Magazine
- “Quantum Mind Hypothesis,” “Conservation of Energy,” and “Particle ∴ Wave,” Eleven Eleven
- “Renewal of the Holy Fire,” Cascadia Review
| 2013 |
- “Synchronous Rotation,” “A Minor Goddess of Magic,” “Quantum Reflection,” “Chuck Truck,” Hubbub
- “Zeroth Law,” “White Body Radiation,” World Literature Today
| 2012 |
- “Coronagraphy,” Poet Lore (2013 Pushcart Prize Nominee)
- “Relation Between a Planet and Its Star,” Michigan Quarterly Review
- “Planck’s Law,” Crab Orchard Review
- “Thin Filament Pyrometry,” Cura: A Literary Magazine of Art & Action
- “Stabilimentum,” “Transparent to Visible Light,” Rumpus Original Poetry Anthology
| 2011 |
- MFA — Creative Writing, Poetry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
- “Transparent to Visible Light,” The Rumpus
- Hopwood Poetry Award, The Hopwood Program at the University of Michigan
- Helen S. and John Wagner Prize for Poetry, The Hopwood Program at the University of Michigan
- Aquarius Press Legacy Award
| 2010 |
- Best American Nonrequired Reading, ed. Dave Eggers
- NEA Writer in Residence, Virginia Center for Creative Arts
- “Waiting on the Reading,” and “When the saints went,” “Catch,” Poetry Foundation dot org
| 2009 |
- Gospel: poems (Finalist: Lambda Literary Award / Hurston-Wright Legacy Award)
- “Stabilimentum,” The Rumpus
- Writer in Residence, Virginia Center for Creative Arts
- Cave Canem Scholar, Community of Writers at Squaw Valley
| 2008 – |
- Writer in Residence, Soul Mountain Writers Colony
- “Making Black Eyed Peas,” Callaloo
- James Cody Scholar, James Dick Foundation for Performing Arts, Poetry at Round Top Festival
- Multi-media online collaborative installation, Pënz (it’s pronounced pants)
- Where the Apple Falls: poems (Finalist: Lambda Literary Award)
- Cave Canem Fellow
- Lesbian Poetry Award, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
- BA — University of California, Berkeley, magna cum laude, Poet Laureate