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May 2022 Feature: Faylita Hicks

Updated: 5 days ago

Faylita Hicks is the author of Hoodwitch, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry, and is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Black Mountain Institute, the Tony-Award winning Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Civil Rights Corps, and more.

Self-portrait by Faylita Hicks


Faylita Hicks (she/they) is a queer Afro-Latinx activist, writer, and interdisciplinary artist. Born in South Central California and raised in Central Texas, they use their intersectional experiences to advocate for the rights of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ people. They are the author of HoodWitch (Acre Books, 2019), a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry. They are the Editor-in-Chief of Black Femme Collective and a new voting member of the Recording Academy. Hicks is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Black Mountain Institute, the Tony-Award winning Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Civil Rights Corps, The Dots Between, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Lambda Literary, Texas After Violence Project, Tin House, and the Right of Return USA.

Their poetry, essays, and digital art have been published in or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Ecotone, Kenyon Review, Longreads, Poetry, Slate, Texas Observer, Yale Review, amongst others. Their personal account of their time in pretrial incarceration in Hays County is featured in the ITVS Independent Lens 2019 documentary, “45 Days in a Texas Jail,” and the Brave New Films 2021 documentary narrated by Mahershala Ali, “Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem.” Hicks received a BA in English from Texas State University-San Marcos and an MFA in Creative Writing from Sierra Nevada University. Visit their website FaylitaHicks.com and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and on Substack.




The Literal Context for the Phrase “Bang! Bang!”

by Faylita Hicks


I. Definitions


Ballistics: What we think we know of these things.


Ballad: An oral hallucination of our fanatic histories.


Blame: A reasonable exit strategy for the iron-fisted.


II. Ballad


It is a dead thing in the poet’s hands if it has no threat.

If it’s without its teeth.

If it’s without its grunge.

If it has no pulse.


III. Ballistics


We lug ammunition in our larynxes; language is

our artillery’s oxidization, at first utterance.

Like a protestor’s cell phone


disconnecting in the police station

and reconnecting outside


of our country’s deconstructed civility—

poets are providing the network


with the same alchemy used to conjure

this nation up out of the colonies.


We were born from war, so to war do we turn

and return.


IV. Ballad


Every makeshift martyr, recently made


coughed up the delineated design

of a truly American death:


guilty of being human,

condemned for being less.


V. Blame


These days hold

no respite for our children,


no sanctuary has been found.

We are still hunted—


in our schools, in our hospitals

in our kitchens, in our driveways

in our bedrooms, in our grocery stores

in our gardens, in our backyards

in our churches, in our community centers


—marooned are we Black womxn and men

by the “Everyman”


(what he means is white man)

and his star-sick affections


for Order & Law, a sickly homage

to the so-called “sanctity


of things being destroyed:

our freedom of speech,

our freedom of movement,

our freedom of religion,”


—and his freedom to gnash his teeth

freely.


His free sees me docile

and kept; his free keeps us all


chewing on lead; us all

afraid to drive alone at night.

Hence the fire.


VI. Ballistics

We seize Amen! with our lungs. So be the fire

that curdles in our compressed throats,


foams forever over the Black womxn’s bruised

lips—a calligraphy of genuine love.

We hold Hallelujah! in our grasps; a yellow tape

slathered across the ghost of our dying radical.


Hallelujah! jangles against our sun-cloaked skins,

sweats down our knuckles, the melt of our bodies


a new constitution set to drown the unfaithful

in their own acrid bile.


VII. Ballad


There’s no easy way to say—when I die, no one will remember

me, exactly as I was: an anxious Yes! For a change.


But a change of the caliber kind.





On Being Buried in the Hays County Jail

by Faylita Hicks

I only remember


what little was left

of my words, falling

out of me, into pale sheets

stapled & stiff.


Meeting my maker

on a tiny tv screen.


My chin tacked to my chest,

my lips falling off of me.


I let them

misname me—

but what else

could I have done?


I only remember

unfolding, exponentially.

An infinite scream, dressed

in gallows of orange, a pillar


of smoke floating from

one hole to the next.


Here, I was more

than a fetish—


I was a recipe.


Something savory & comforting

in the cold.


Everyone knew me

from somewhere.


I only remember

staring into the gray muscle

of this pauper’s house.


A roach breeding in its ventricle,

soothing itself in the semi-dark.


Grafting my wounds with wool & ink,

I fractured by the hour—knowing


there would be more of me

soon enough.


I only remember


the feral way

I dug down, looking

for a way out.


Publicly acceptable

forms of suicide.


Any dignified version

of self-mutilation.


Any pithy metaphor

other womxn could learn from


when they read about my death

in the paper.

I daydreamed


about bridges & highway lanes

I could drift across,


lift off & scatter.


Always on a sunny day. Always

on a weekend. Always

with a big, blue sky.


I dreamed


I swallowed gallons

of saltwater down.


Swallowed

until I didn’t have to

anymore.


Until my body relaxed & my eyes stared

at the bluest black & I sank


amongst the bodies

of a thousand un-excavated pearls


that passively strangled


the pale, thin neck

of the Guadalupe River.


I remembered


how even as a gxrl,

I had known

I would lay at the bottom.

A secret or a salt puddle

beneath the city.


A spill of oil.


Unseen & untouched

& gone.



The Interview


You have been booked and busy! Congratulations on all of your success and recent honors. In the fall of 2021, you received a Shearing Fellowship at the Black Mountain Institute in Las Vegas. Can you tell us about your time there and any projects you worked on?


Busy is an understatement! I will say, though, that I am currently doing my best to manifest some work/life balance. That’s actually a little bit of what I worked on during my time as a Shearing Fellow, finding the balance between working on the next thing and allowing myself to slow down to find some joy in the present. That said, I did manage to write and record my sixth spoken word album inspired by the work of Civil Rights Corps, A New Name for My Love, and scope out the structures and themes for my next two poetry collections tentatively titled A Map of My Want and A Storm of Butterflies in a Field of Terror, and work on essays for my debut memoir. It was a fruitful time for sure.


Your most recent collection, Hoodwitch, is a triumphant declaration of survival and grapples with some deeply personal subjects. What was your process like for this collection? What do you hope your readers will take away from it?


I often share that many of the poems featured in HoodWitch took over a decade to fully come into themselves. I did that thing almost all writers do in the beginning, tell myself I can’t say whatever I want to just because I feel like it. No one had said that to me, not that I can recall anyway, but it had been a fear keeping me from taking the necessary risks to turn my interesting ideas into fully-formed pieces. That being said, when the older poems finally did come into themselves, the rest of the work came easily to me.


When the drafts were done, I entered into several months of editing feeling newly empowered to embroider literal energy into the work with daily rituals of dancing underneath the stars while sipping something, singing, praying to the ancestors, and lighting my candles. I slept with the galley under my pillow, carrying it with me everywhere I went. Technically, I still carry a first edition with me everywhere I go now, but back then, it was like trying to keep a child real close so I could keep an eye on it. If I forgot it for a little while, I’d look in my bag, see it, and remember that I had done what I had been called to do. Now, it’s like my best friend, reminding me it will always be there to hold me when I feel more than a little lost.


I celebrated every part of the creative and publishing process, both publicly and privately. I wanted readers to feel what I felt when I was writing—so I treated the writing and publishing process as a relationship. I set the mood, I reached for honesty, and I tried to be unapologetic. I wanted to introduce myself to the wider world with HoodWitch. I wanted this first book to recognize and name the many minds of the Black femme, first and foremost. I said to myself, “If for whatever reason this happens to be my one and only, because life is what it is, it better be my very best work.” And it was. I can tell you, though, that I’ve grown.


If there is anything I hope readers take from HoodWitch, it’s that if no one else sees you Black womxn, I see you. And ain’t we all we need anyways?


As a multidisciplinary artist, your work arcs across creative and academic disciplines through poetry, essays, music, and visual performances. Do you feel there is a connective tissue between your artistic expressions?


We were born in a spectacularly unique era, one that requires we learn to look beyond the identities we’ve inherited via the carceral system of this country. My first few attempts at trying to define myself for myself have involved embracing my natural inquisitiveness by learning how to play again. In this context, play means following my creative whims in any and every direction. Playing makes space for intuitive problem-solving and dynamic interactions which can transform one’s perspective on the world and the people that move through it.


At the root of my work, there are several questions: What does freedom actually look/feel/taste/sound like? Who has access to it, if anyone actually does, and why? Is there a price and who sets it if, by participating in this society, no one has access to it? Post-liberation, how will our communities function? No—really. Where will I go for socks? What does accountability look like in circumstances of extreme harm? What drives us and how does the “human spirit” impact the policies co-creating our lives? With all that’s wrong in the world, will there ever be time to talk about joy again?!


My projects are all, in one way or another, trying to answer or explore these questions and others like them. In the work that exists in the public forum, I feel like I’m still very much at the front door of a very large and unending expanse of questions about an undefined future for our world. I am trying, very hard, to translate the philosophical assertions about potential new shapes for our society into an experience or narrative that can be readily enjoyed by any and everyone.


What does your ideal writer’s life look like?


In my most lavish dreams, I’m partially off-grid in a cottage with a banging library, wi-fi, a well-stocked pantry, and wine cellar, a creek, and low-light pollution. Every day, I wake up and make brunch, read from the latest, take a nap, a shower, a glass of vino, and watch the sky till around seven. About that time, the music comes on, the dinner gets made, and the animals stop by for stories. Around ten, I finally pull out the draft as a well-fed, well-rested, and well-balanced writer who has spent all day thinking about the wonders of the world.


You’re throwing a dinner party to introduce work to new followers. What’s on the menu, what music is playing, and how is the table set?


I’ve always wanted to have regular dinner parties where each month, we get together and try a different meal created by regional chefs based on the theme of a book we’re collectively reading. This would mean there were no regular food items but, hopefully, we’d be supporting the culinary artists from around the area and getting the first taste of something new and exciting. If it’s warm, plenty of green lawn, and no neighbors for miles—we’re outside. Farm table all day. If it’s cool, there’s plenty of soft lighting, a large round table, and fresh flowers. My regular music playlists are chaotically delineated only by the year in which I have decided to listen to them as opposed to the artist, mood, or genre. Therefore, I’d probably choose some Robert Glasper and let the algorithm do its jazzy thing.


How can people support you right now?


I’m trying to make my Substack a weekly newsletter, so support there would be amazing. Besides my memoir about my odyssey-like journey through America and the next two poetry collections, I’m also working on a tarot and affirmations deck for currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people as part of my work with the amazing oral history archive group Texas After Violence Project, expanding my justice-focused docupoem “Bar for Bar,” and playing with the idea of a seventh spoken word album. General support keeps the wheels moving and the gears going, so all of it is welcome!



Who is another Black woman writer people should read?


Deborah DEEP Mouton

Aurielle Marie

Nicole Shawan Junior

Deesha Philyaw


To get you started…





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