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Trans Poet Of Color With Dayton Roots Wins Whiting Award

A portrait of Xandria Phillips.
Beowulf Sheehan
Xandria Phillips is the author of two collections of poetry, HULL and Reasons for Smoking.

Dayton-born poet Xandria Phillips has won a $50,000 creative writing award.

Xandria Philips says winning the Whiting Award is exciting and humbling, but also a bit confusing.

“I still just kind of feel like Bumpkin, you know, in the library, maybe checking out Twilight and maybe checking out a poetry book. And so, it feels incredibly wild in terms of trajectories.”

Xandria is a trans poet of color living in Chicago, but they’ll be moving to Pittsburgh soon for a fellowship at the Center for African-American Poetry and Poetics.

Xandria Phillips

Right now, they’re writing about television and color theory—how people make assumptions about colors, much like they make assumptions about gender.

“We have the color blue being something we see as very natural, but it’s something that’s also been reappropriated by banks, uniforms. It has a kind of quiet, calming authority to it. I guess I’m just looking at these things that feel kind of fascinatingly invisible to me,” Xandria says.

Their most recent collection of poetry is titled Hull. In addition to writing the verse, they painted the cover as well. Xandria says they completed the book while working for little pay and often creating in a studio with no windows.

With the Whiting Award and upcoming fellowship, Xandria says they’ll have more stability... and maybe even be able to find a studio with windows