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Friday Feature: Arianne Elena Payne

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Arianne Elena Payne is a Black writer, multidisciplinary creative, and aspiring historian

from Chicago, IL. She has received the 2022 Graybeal-Gowen Poetry Prize, the 2022 Virginia

Downs Poetry Award, and the 2019 Frederick Hartmann Poetry Prize. Her work has been

featured in Voicemail Poems, TORCH, and is forthcoming in The Shenandoah Review. Situated in the complexities and lyricism of Blackness, girlhood, and geographies of

resistance—her work strives to take Black people and their histories seriously. Follow Arianne

Am I Beautiful?

it’s always been a black thing to talk

smooth. maybe it’s swagger or survival—

a type of generational wealth, this way

we can speak of flowers & then bloom

even as we side-eye the shears ready

to prune & reduce for more “fruitful” growth.

no, i am not done dreaming of the shade,

all the ways a shadow struts & saves me.

our petals know we will wither. someone’s

auntie said, y’all better get to living.

she meant while we still could. at night

we welcome the breeze. let it tangle our words.

might say things we can’t be, might be things

we can’t say. yes, i see the stem of you & smile.


Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Colleen J. McElroy, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.


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