Arisa White

Faculty, BFA in Creative Writing Program, Undergraduate Studies
Residency Site: Plainfield VT



Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow and the author of You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, Black Pearl, Post Pardon, Hurrah’s Nest, and A Penny Saved. With funding from the City of Oakland, Post Pardon was adapted into an opera. As a 2013-14 recipient of an Investing in Artists grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation, Arisa self-published dear Gerald, a collection of epistolary poems addressed to her estranged father, and then traveled to Guyana to give him a copy of the book. Her debut collection, Hurrah’s Nest, won the 2012 San Francisco Book Festival Award for poetry and was nominated for a 44th NAACP Image Award, the 82nd California Book Awards, and the 2013 Wheatley Book Awards. Member of the PlayGround writers’ pool, her play Frigidare was staged for the 15th Annual Best of PlayGround Festival. She has received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from Headlands Center for the Arts, Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Rose O’Neill Literary House, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Arisa’s poetry is featured on the album WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet.


MFA in Creative Writing, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
BA in Liberal Arts, Sarah Lawrence College

Areas of Expertise

Poetry, Memoir, Dramatic Writing, and Hybrid

Personal Statement

After completing my graduate study at UMass, Amherst, I moved out West. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, I needed to venture elsewhere to put into practice who I believed I was as a poet. I want my poetry to be broadened by my interactions with the world and the communities in which I live. My life, and the lives of others, has taught me a great deal about human struggles and triumphs. Being African American, queer, and a woman has deepened and informed my poetry, and as I continue to grow as a writer and individual, I’ve learned to uncover a self and voice not limited to, or held by, social labels.

I’m an active citizen through my poetry: I teach and share it, enrich it through collaborations with choreographers, theater artists, and musicians, and use it to become socially engaged. From working with and being in community, I’ve learned self-discipline, gentleness, accountability—how I show up for others and myself. I’ve expanded my capacity for patience and letting go, and all of these lessons have refined my artistic and writing processes.

Teaching is an opportunity for me to reframe my experiences as a writer, thinker, and individual; my knowledge then becomes something that my students can use to cultivate their own self-expression, develop goals, and deepen their writing practice. For my students and myself, I want creative writing to be a vehicle to go beyond the surface, recover and restore, and create authentic relationships that leave the world a little bit more just.



  1. You're the Most Beautiful Thing That HappenedAugury Books2016
  2. Black Pearl: Eight Poems and a Poetic DramaNomadic Press2016
  3. A Penny SavedAquarius Press2012
  4. Hurrah's NestVirtual Artists Collective2012
  5. Post PardonMouthfeel Press2011


  1. Write Place: A Writing Workshop with Arisa WhiteJanuary 16, 2016 2:00 pm
  2. January 1, 1970 12:00 am