The story of a literary fellowship that maybe wasn’t so strange at all

Illustration: George Peters / Getty Images

“Hey, nigger, nigger, nigger,” Jackson Taylor, the writing instructor, called out, pointing his finger at me from across the Chelsea loft that had been renovated into our classroom. I and 13 writers had been invited to participate in a mysterious writing fellowship funded by the Barnes & Noble founder, Len Riggio. For our writing assignment, we had been tasked to complete the thought, “I remember…” A young black poet in his 20s had written and shared a syncopated poem whose rhythms bounced around the room. Buried in his poem, he’d quoted a title from a 1935 poem by Wallace Stevens…

Hafizah Geter

Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter‘s work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Longreads, & Tin House.

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