Hampshire College Alum Shaina Jones/Phenix 12F Featured in Poets & Writers’ “Annual Look at Debut Poets”

Hampshire alum Shaina Jones 12F, who uses the pen name Shaina Phenix, was featured in the January/February issue of Poets & Writers Magazine for her recently published book of poetry, To Be Named Something Else. The magazine, which does an annual deep dive into debut poets, interviews several poets in the issue inviting them to share inspiration, advice, and writers block remedies to sustain their writing.

When describing major influences, Jones cited poet Lucille Clifton above all others, crediting former Hampshire Assistant Professor of Poetry Aracelis Girmay for the introduction. “I’d like to give the universe some credit, to say that I would have found Lucille Clifton’s work, or it would have found me in some sort of way, but Aracelis handed me The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 at one of the worst moments in my life” Jones says.

“And while the poems didn’t cure the thing that was eating at me, they did hold my hand, hard. In so many more ways than this, Aracelis — her work, her teaching, her mentorship — made me feel possible, as both a human and a poet. Early in my relationship with writing, especially in academia, she encouraged me to experiment, to say what I meant even if everyone couldn’t understand it at first. She taught me about audience, about listening, about allowing the poem space to be what it needs to be and not what I mean for it to be. She taught me to notice how writable the things I carried were, even when they felt unworthy of writing to me.”  

Jones, an assistant professor of English at Elon University, has been lauded for her award-winning book which she published last year. Named one of New York Public Library's Best Books, 2023, and the winner of the 2023 Miller Williams Poetry Prize, the collection is a vibrant tribute to Black matriarchy and lineage — both familial and literary.

Read the whole interview and listen to her read a poem.

Header image above via Shaina Phenix's website.

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