Voices of Bettering American Poetry 2015 — Sade Murphy

What have you been reading, watching, or listening to lately? What new or emerging writer do you want the world to know about?

I’m in an MFA program so I don’t actually read anything. Just this week I finally finished the most recent seasons of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and How to Get Away with Murder in preparation for a new season in Shondaland. I’ve been listening to two playlists on Tidal: Kanye West Deep Cuts and Produced by Kanye West. As problematic and complicated a celebrity as Kanye is, he was the first rapper I ever paid any attention to and his work as a producer is impeccable.

There are so many talented and breathtaking writers that I’ve had the pleasure to meet in the past two years, I just know I’m going to leave someone out, but here goes. First of all every writer in my cohort at Pratt is here to slay, but also Precious Okoyomon, Jasmine Gibson, Adjua Greaves, Sean Henry-Smith, Gabriel Ojeda-Sague, Paul Cunningham, Stephon Lawrence are some at the top of my mind.

How do you practice self-care when writing about difficult subject matter? 


Self-care does not come naturally to me, I’m still trying to figure it out. I let myself feel. I let myself cry. I have a really amazing therapist and I see him as often as I need to. Since much of my work handles trauma I’ve experienced, I’m working really hard on not forcing myself to write or harming myself through writing. Sometimes I need to check for my own consent. Witchcraft, magic. My room is basically the shrine I live in and tend to. Maintaining altars, burning incense, sage and rosemary. Bathing in gem essences and epsom salt. Aromatherapy with essential oils, Sister Spinster tinctures. Beyonce’s instagram. My own instagram. Laughing with Sasha. Kissing the flowers in my garden and tending to my houseplants. Hugging my roommates. Neko Atsume. Teaching myself a new skill or trying a new recipe.

What do you have to say to those who would suggest your writing is too intense or upsetting?

Shut the fuck up.

Who would you have nominated for this anthology? Is there a poem you have in mind that you could link to?

Sasha Banks. You can check out her new new at the Collagist and an earlier posting of her poem, God Bless america over at PBS News Hour.


What needs to change in the educational/academic world, with regard to poetry and writing? What can literary educators do to affect this change? What can students do?

Lol, tldr; #stopallwhitepeople which is kind of my go to first step to improving anything. And, more seriously, care. I’m lucky enough to be at the only (or maybe one of the few) MFA programs where more than half of my peers are women of color and the faculty are invested in a radical and restorative pedagogy. But none of that can matter or be the least bit edifying if the people educating us aren’t as attentive to our needs and vulnerabilities as they are our craft or professionalization as artists.


sade-murphySADE MURPHY is a poet and artist from Houston, Texas. They are a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and current MFA candidate at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. They are the author of Dream Machine (co-im-press, 2014) and self portrait, a chapbook from Birds of Lace. Their work has been published in Action, Yes!, Glittermob, LIT, Spoon River Poetry Review, Sink Review, and Dreginald.


This interview series is conducted with authors from the anthology, Bettering American Poetry 2015. As Bettering’s editors wrote in their call for nominations, “Our efforts will intentionally shift favor so that the literary landscape within this anthology reflects a ranging plurality of voices in American poetry and illuminates the possibilities of sharing space … This anthology represents just one concerted effort to better American poetry, but it is one that we hope will resonate.”

Bettering has sought to delve deeper with the poets selected for the anthology. These questions are composed collectively by the editors, with the belief that the literary community needs a polyphony not only of poems but of poets’ voices.