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Literary voyage: Baruch lecturer unveils debut poem collection

Daniel Jacobson | Weissman School of Arts and Sciences

Mishkin Gallery hosted a live reading of English department lecturer Safia Jama’s debut poem collection “Crowded House” on Nov. 2. Along with presenting the work, the author held a Q&A to share her work with Baruch College students and faculty.

Jama described “Crowded House” as a “breakup album,” aiming to uncover feelings of grief, generational trauma, gratitude and self-transformation. The collection’s first poem, “Aubade with Craws,” sets the tone by foreshadowing a departing love. 

For students, each piece opened a new door into a journey of reflection. Using metaphors such as the TV in “Public Television” or the personification of ducks in “Ducks Through Winter,” Safia invited attendees to find special meaning and memories in everyday life.

Many event attendees expressed their connection to the poetry through their questions during the Q&A and expressed gratitude to Jama for sharing her work.  

Kimberly Deng, a freshman, shared that she loved seeing her “professor being passionate about her work.” 

Safia’s poetry expressed her Somali and Irish American background and experiences in life, which captivated students on a personal level. Born in Queens, she always felt connected to the city and frequently mentions New York in her work.

The author said that writing is a very healing and therapeutic activity. In an interview with The Ticker, Jama explained her writing process and inspirations. 

She said she carries around a special notebook and tends to write on the train. Living in the city, Jama said she “[she] pays attention to [her] surroundings, and that finds its way into the poems.” 

A piece of advice she provided young writers with was to remember when sharing personal narratives, it is “like a fire: [it] can burn or warm you.” She stressed the importance of allowing the authentic voice to flow but to be mindful of the extent of opening their private world to others.

Other poems read during the event included “The Wedding Day” and “Meditation on Memory.” 

Currently, Jama said she does not plan to publish more poetry.

“Crowded House” was published very spontaneously when she was about to announce her “retirement from poetry.” New York-based publisher Beltway Editions released the book in 2023.

Aside from poetry, Jama also wrote the chapbook “Notes on Resilience” in 2020. Her work has been published in CUNY TV, Ploughshares, Boston Review, World Literature Today, Spoken Black Girl and Poem-a-Day.

Jama will also present her poetry with Nithy Kasa at the Irish Arts Center on Nov. 16.

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