Ashia’s debut full length poetry collection, Heirloom, will be published in Spring 2023 with Write Bloody Publishing
Speaking from both a place of restoration and vengeance, Heirloom explores concepts of spiritual nourishment, physical and emotional sacrifice, environmental injustice, sexuality, waste colonialism and Black migration; these poems seek to address the trauma felt from environmental injustice and the familial wounds that are passed down as a result of historical neglect. A descendant of W.E.B DuBois’s concept of “sorrow songs,” Heirloom analyzes our environmental pasts and presents in order to inform our environmental future. Through bird song, jazz, symbiosis, land loss, insect interactions, travel, desire and a whole lot of love and reverence for the unspoken, Heirloom reveals the ingrained connections between Blackness and ecological survival. Looking to the West as a final frontier, Ajani builds worlds from desert and ash, crushing them down once more in search of fresher freedoms.
AVAILABLE NOW FOR PRE-ORDER, OUT APRIL 18, 2023
Listen to the accompanying playlist here!
“A stunner of a debut, in Ashia Ajani’s freshman collection, the speaker runs with a burning world draped over their shoulder, eager for a place to quell the smoke. An ancestral dreamscape as recollection, as instruction, as retribution. Ashia, Amen & Amen.”
Daniel B. Summerhill
Author of Divine, Divine, Divine & Mausoleum of Flowers
“From the very first word I read, Ashia Ajani’s poems hit like a lightning strike. Ashia is a true poet of the people, bringing that “now poetry” energy that June Jordan spoke about when she was alive. It was a joy to select Ashia as a climate poet in residence at UC Berkeley.”
Aya de Leon
Director June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, Author of That Dangerous Energy & Undercover Latina
“With this stunning debut collection from Ashia Ajani, we are invited to join the poet on a journey to reclaim a birthright, naming ourselves in scripture and finding histories that were previously destroyed or obscured…Heirloom offers powerful juxtapositions of imagery and ideology, illuminating beauty and grief with both hands…The collection is dripping with history and music, both a hymnal and a liturgy, exploring the holiness of creation and interrogating the future, and all the water in between.”
Suzi Q . Smith
Author of A Gospel of Bones & Poems for the End of the World
Currently booking Winter & Spring 2023
Seeking Opportunities for Writing Workshops, Poetry Performances, Conference Presentations
Workshops + Presentations
Myth Making & Environment: Creation, Destruction, Futurity
This workshop will use climate writing and art by members of the African Diaspora to inform young people’s own climate narratives. Climate change is one of the biggest sources of stress among young people; being able to write about our feelings and experiences with environmental harms allows for space to process these emotions and envision futures beyond harm. This workshop will use African and Caribbean mythology to analyze how different diasporic people have interpreted natural disasters and climate impacts for millennia, and what we can learn from these myths. Students will leave the workshops with written drafts, ancestral knowledge and environmental futures
Black Environmental Writing: Roots, Veins, Rhythm
The Black diaspora has a rich tradition of environmental writing, though oftentimes these themes are overlooked. This workshop will be an intermediate approach to Black eco-literature and its important contributions to environmental, social and climate justice. Participants will read literature by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Lucille Clifton, Thylias Moss and Nikky Finney to think about the ways in which the Black diaspora has both influenced and been influenced by the natural world. Participants will be encouraged to draw upon their own experiences and engagements with the natural world to generate shared knowledge about Black/nature relationships.
Storytelling Our Climate Futures:
Storytelling & Climate Futures hinges on the fact that storytelling brings us closer together. Stories reveal what is important, what our values are, what is worthy of preservation. Poetry has been revealed to increase empathy, and is an effective teaching tool, particularly when it comes to topics like climate change. Storytelling has been a cornerstone of the Black tradition since before the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was (and still is) a way to harbor memory, pass on tradition from generation to generation, and honor the histories that make up Black life. We will be looking at a couple of climate themed poems by Indigenous and Black authors in order to build our own storytelling familiarity.
Ajani’s poems are tactile, textured, essential. Firmly wrought, they bear the weight of American history, the possibilities of hope, and the call for community. What a gift to spend time with this poet’s work.
…the poet offers us a space to reclaim that freedom, to persist in our own making, in our small exodus, without naming our perpetrators; where, for a moment, we too can feel the cool air wrapped around our Black bodies—and feel free to exhale.
Ashia Ajani (Heirloom 2023)
storyteller. environmental educator. cultural preservationist.
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