For a creative writing graduate, poetry is a community
Editor’s Note: This story is one in a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.
Hanan Robinson began his career at Arizona State University while doing a nonprofit internship in the social justice field. During her tenure, she discovered that she leaned more towards the arts.
With a degree in English, Hanan Robinson finds creative inspiration in many places. Here, she poses in front of art by Mikayla Cunningham (Instagram: @elementalmagic_art).
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Robinson is now engaged in a career in poetry – but she has not given up on social justice. She incorporates her beliefs in humanity and equality into her art. Robinson is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing) this spring and is serious about entering the world of writing and publishing. Much like everything else, that scene has changed a lot in the past year of COVID-19 and racial calculus.
“I interned for Hayden’s Ferry Review this spring semester 2021,” she said. “It gave me the opportunity to come face to face with my own insecurities… I am more and more curious about how personal biases are taken into account and controlled in publishing. I don’t necessarily think that’s an easy answer as it considers multiple concepts in motion at the same time: writing skills, community, and accessibility.
She finds inspiration and validation in a myriad of sometimes unexpected places. “I really hope to explore the magic, folk styles and joy in my pieces in the future,” she explained. “I think this is particularly important as my concentration is mainly focused on the dark.”
Originally from San Diego, Robinson recognizes the importance of community. She does not hesitate to recognize mentors by helping her find inspiration for an integrative writing ethic. She said she learns by imitating those who came before her and that she will strive to “affirm black humanity” in her own work.
We sat down with Robinson to learn a little more about her poetry and how those at ASU helped her find her voice.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study in your field?
Reply: It was partly an intuitive decision. I believe school should be a learning and enjoyable experience considering the amount of work you have to engage in. In order for me to complete my studies, I must have curiosity and joy intertwined. It was before I attended ASU in the middle of a nonprofit internship that I had pursued to determine if I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector with a social justice lens. I discovered that I am more oriented towards the arts. When I started ASU, I wasn’t sure what kind of creative writing degree I wanted because I knew I had a lot of development to do in both cases. I thought I was going to be more interested in the fiction concentration, but when I took my ENG 287: Beginning Poetry Workshop with (Regents Professor of English) Alberto Ríos and (Teaching Assistant) Noah Trammel while simultaneously taking ENG 354 : African American Literature -Harlem Renaissance to present with (associate professor) Duku Anokye, I definitely pivoted towards poetry. It gave me a perspective on poetry that was more about lineage, exploration, curiosity, and life.
Q: What did you learn at ASU – in class or otherwise – that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: There are several, really. I took a few acting classes and performed in one of ASU’s main plays last fall 2020, and what I learned from those experiences and my engagement with (Associate Theater Professor) William ” Bill ”Partlan is that as a creator, it helps to think of creativity as a muscle that you use, not something that you have or don’t have.
Through the Unruly Voices course by Ersula Ore (Associate Professor of African and African American Studies), I learned that a lot of racist rhetoric and tactics are not new but recycled and indeed buried in history.
Right now I’m taking the African American Short Story course from Lois Brown (Foundation professor) and her approach to writing and analyzing plays is quite refreshing. This course has given me a new perspective on how to approach written works in a way that considers my experience as a reader, place, positionality and environment of both the story and the world. ‘writer.
If I had to sum this up, I would say that I have learned even more about how important written and creative lineages are in supporting my writing and creativity journey.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: It was local and offered a creative writing program.
Q: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson at ASU?
A: Ah, does a school do justice to its students if there is only one teacher in this answer? I have about seven to eight in this answer. The teachers who have offered me the most support and advice are: Lois Brown and (editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review) Katherine Berta.
Q: What is the best advice you would give to those who are still in school?
A: Engage in joy, ask for help, and take a nap.
Q: What was your favorite place to study power?
A: It would depend on my level of anxiety at the time.
Great anxiety: the private study rooms of the Noble Library.
Medium level anxiety: lower levels of the Hayden library, preferably a couch so I can take a nap. The outdoor space when the weather was good.
Q: What are your plans after you graduate?
A: I would like to work for a few years to pay off my current student loans so that I can enter a PhD program with some peace of mind. I hope to do a job focused on supporting students to some extent. I also hope to continue learning more about editing field jobs and would like to continue to engage in writing / editing internships. I also plan on continuing to work my creative muscle as it comes.
Q: If someone gave you $ 40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you face?
A: Honestly, I can’t imagine having $ 400,000,000 let alone $ 40 million. What comes to mind is the creation and implementation of mental and emotional health services for Black folx. Starting with people who have lost loved ones to police violence and people who have been affected / injured by police brutality. As well as services for black people who provide support services and are organizers and activists in their community.
I think these services should be free for everyone, but I would start with Black folx if I had the money. I also believe that black therapists should be fairly compensated for these services and given the support needed to explore new culturally competent modalities and implementations.