Aja Monet

I don’t share things for you to understand or feel me, I’m sharing something so that we can change the conditions we are living in and we can do something about it.
 
 

Award-winning Poet

Educator & Social Justice Activist

 

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We who follow the dynamic poetry of Aja Monet know her to be a wizard of optimism and musicality. ‘My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter’ reminds us of her wisdom. These poems are made of the black woman genius they praise: ‘the ghost of women once girls,’ ‘mothers who did the best they could,’ and ‘daughters of a new day.’ Monet is a child of old school black power and a daughter of the myriad political traumas of today. Her poetry is indispensable. These poems are fire.
— Terrance Hayes
She draws upon rich memories of her Brooklyn childhood in the 1990s, school days passed on Chicago’s South Side, and an inner awakening in Palestine. Monet strikingly illustrates the passage from girlhood to womanhood, recording the tumultuous shifts between despair and joy that can occur along the way...In stunning and evocative language, Monet reveals the many ways that ‘we exist between/ a self for self and a self for others.’
Publishers Weekly

Harry Belafonte has said that Aja Monet is “the true definition of an artist”  An accomplished poet, committed activist, and gifted musician, Monet is an NAACP Image Award nominee for Outstanding Literary Work-Poetry 2018.  She was a featured speaker at the Women’s March on Washington DC where she read the title poem of her latest book My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter (Haymarket books 2017). Monet’s other books include Inner-City Chants & Cyborg Cyphers (2015), and The Black Unicorn Sings (Penmanship books). Her collaborations include working with the legendary poet/musician Saul Williams on the book Chorus: a literary mixtape “the anthem of a new generation of poets unified by the desire to transcend the identity politics of the day and begin to be seen as one,” published by MTV Books/Simon & Schuster.

The youngest individual to win the Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title, she has performed around the world, including appearances in France, the UK, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bermuda, and Cuba; at world-renowned venues including New York City’s Town Hall Theater, Harlem's Apollo Theater, the Paradiso in Amsterdam, and Shakespeare and Company in Paris, as well as at the NAACP’s Barack Obama Inaugural event in Washington DC. She was invited by contemporary artist Hank Willis Thomas and scholar Deborah Willis to speak at Musee du Quai Branly for NYU’s Black Portraitures Conference in Paris, where she addressed international scholars, artists, and performers on the role of the poet in contemporary society; and she was invited by Carrie Mae Weems to be a featured poet for Carrie Mae Weems Live: Past Tense/Future Perfect at the Guggenheim Museum as well as a part of Weems Photography in the Garden event at the Museum of Modern Art.

Passionate about education as a tool for liberation, she has been a teaching artist for Urban Word NYC and the Urban Arts Partnership. Reflecting on the renewed activism of our current moment and the role poetry has played, Monet states, “There [are] many moments that we are participating in right now, as black people in this country, that [are] causing us to start to rethink ourselves and how we talk about who we are. I feel like there have always been poets. Now there’s a lane, there’s more interest. The public is ready to deal with those poems in a way that they weren’t before.”

Of Cuban-Jamaican descent and Brooklyn-born and raised, Monet is graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where she was awarded the The Andrea Klein Willison Prize for Poetry which was established to recognize undergraduate students whose work in poetry “effectively examines relationships among women, especially in the context of justice for everyone.” She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  She lives in Miami, FL.

 

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