Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Colin Smith Staff Writer
“October looks at me in a funny way as if I owe it something for giving me all this orange,” visiting poet Angel Nafis said as she read a poem aloud in Dalton Theater on Saturday night.
The Kalamazoo Poetry Collective invited Nafis to campus as a guest performer to start her current poetry tour following the release of her new book, Blackgirl Mansion. After Corinne Taborn ’13 and Jeffrey Washington ’15 opened the performance on Saturday, Nafis warmed the chilly night with her words.
Nafis lives in Fort Green, Brooklyn and she has performed at the San Francisco Opera House and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. She represented the LouderArts poetry project at the Women of the World Poetry Slam and the National Poetry Slam. Nafis hails from the same Ann Arbor “Volume Youth Poetry Project” as Gahl Liberzon and Aimee Le, two poets who visited K a few weeks ago. She said she was about to drop out of high school until joining the program at 16.
Nafis shuffled through pages onstage. She struggled to find the right poem to read because “they have to be read together,” she said. Nafis said she attempted a “30/30” challenge when she was writing Blackgirl Mansion. She wrote a poem upon waking up every morning for a month. After a few days of the challenge, she said she needed structure to keep her poems fresh and original so she wrote persona poems. She shared a selection of these poems with the audience on Saturday.
Nafis said she wrote many of these persona poems from her father’s perspective. In the poems, she illustrates what it meant to raise two girls without a mother. As she read on Saturday, her poems grew more intimate and personal with the time. She addressed the struggles of getting by and being black, and discussed the meaning she finds in being a lesbian.
Throughout the performance, Nafis engaged with students about her favorite Netflix show, the post-Beatles careers of Paul and John, and the influence of poetry during her adolescence. “I’m so glad I can say things and people will listen,” she said as she left the stage.