Angel Nafis is, like many of her generation, a multi-hyphenate, someone who can’t be described with even a handful of words. Her work, likewise, is also too multifaceted to easily describe. Her poems have been published in Poetry Magazine, The Rumpus, and in her own collection, BlackGirl Mansion. What makes them so powerful is her ability to take pieces of expansive ideas and flip them around in her own succinct words. She tackles the personal and the political—which, as a queer black woman, are inseparable. Like many artists who grew up without seeing their personal identities reflected in the mainstream, Nafis has brought her inner world outward, onto the page—or, just as frequently, in performance spaces. She is the founder, curator, and host of the Greenlight Bookstore Poetry Salon, and, along with Morgan Parker, is a member of the black feminist poetry duo Other Black Girl Collective.
Where do you live and how old are you?
I live in Prospect Lefferts Gardens / 27 yo
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened?
Probably my Dad giving sermons at our temple. He was late to literacy, but you could never tell because of the way he was able to tell stories and draw these wild and expansive metaphors and then relate them back to a tangible daily action or practice within the congregation. I remember being a healthy mix of embarrassed/emboldened/proud/bored. Forever a teenager.
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career
LOL ask me that question again when it’s time to renew my lease in seven months.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully in Beyoncé’s inner circle.
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
Never leaving, but always expanding and pushing the ceilings of “poet” and “writer”
What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
I just won a Ruth Lilly Dorothy Sargent Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and that really did not suck.
What’s some advice you’d give to people trying to get a foothold in your industry?Write your ass all the way off. Find a writing practice (time of day/ location) that works for you and be about it. Read everything—your predecessors, your peers, stuff you think you’ll love, stuff you think you’ll hate. Reading is writing, too.
Who are your role models in your industry?
There is no real model for what I’m trying to be on, but I think a lot of my friends are making bold, courageous, vibrant work in several mediums that overlap and implode any previous model. So I’d say my people are my role models: Morgan Parker, Shira Erlichman, Tommy Pico, Saeed Jones. They are all radical remixers and makers and professionals.
To learn about 29 more accomplished sub-thirty-year-olds, visit this year’s Envy Index.
Photo by Jane Bruce.