“She approaches words as reference points, rather than endpoints. By reimagining language, she exerts control over her sense of self.”

Los Angeles Review of Books

ARISA WHITE is a Cave Canem fellow, Sarah Lawrence College alumna, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the poetry chapbooks Disposition for Shininess, Post Pardon, Black Pearl, Perfect on Accident, and “Fish Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won the inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize.

Published by Virtual Artists Collective, her debut full-length collection, Hurrah’s Nest, was a finalist for the 2013 Wheatley Book Awards, 82nd California Book Awards, and nominated for the 44th NAACP Image Awards. Her second collection, A Penny Saved, inspired by the true-life story of Polly Mitchell, was published by Willow Books, an imprint of Aquarius Press in 2012. You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, published by Augury Books, was nominated for the 29th Lambda Literary Awards.

Arisa co-authored, with Laura Atkins, Biddy Mason Speaks Up, a middle-grade biography in verse about the midwife and philanthropist Bridget “Biddy” Mason, which is the second book in the Fighting for Justice series. Biddy Mason Speaks Up was awarded the FOCAL Award, Maine Literary Award for Young People’s Literature, Nautilus Book Award Gold Medal for Middle-Grade Nonfiction, and the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal for Multicultural Juvenile Nonfiction. Biddy Mason Speaks Up is now part of the New York City Department of Education’s Mosaic Curriculum.

Her current publications are the poetic memoir Who’s Your Daddy and the anthology Home is Where You Queer Your Heart, co-edited with Miah Jeffra and Monique Mero and published by Foglifter Press. In collaboration with composer Jessica Jones, Arisa is working on Post Pardon: The Opera, which will premiere in 2025.

She was awarded a 2013-14 Cultural Funding grant from the City of Oakland to create the initial libretto and score for Post Pardon: The Opera, and received, in that same year, an Investing in Artists Grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation to fund the dear Gerald project, which takes a personal and collective look at absent fathers. As the creator of the Beautiful Things Project, Arisa curates poetic collaborations that are rooted in queer Black women’s ways of knowing.

Selected by the San Francisco Bay Guardian for the 2010 Hot Pink List, Arisa was a 2011-13 member of the PlayGround writers’ pool. Recipient of the inaugural Rose O’Neill Literary House summer residency at Washington College in Maryland, she has also received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from Indigo Arts Alliance, The Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Headlands Center for the Arts, Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. As a visiting scholar at San Francisco State University’s The Poetry Center in 2016, she developed a digital special collections on Black Women Poets in The Poetry Center Archives. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2005, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2019, her poetry has been published widely and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet.

Arisa is an associate professor in English and Creative Writing at Colby College and serves as a community advisory board member for Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.

Photo by Caitlin Penna