Meet the 2020-21 Hugo Fellows! In this series, we’re catching up with each of the fellows to learn more about them, their favorite places to write, and their current projects.
Stephanie Segura is a Southern California-born poet and the daughter of Central American immigrants. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from California State University, San Bernardino, where she drew inspiration from surrealist practices along with the desert heat. Her poetry explores a lineage of displacement through speculative testimony, audio transcriptions, and written recollections. She enjoys working with youth and has taught cultural enrichment for El Centro de La Raza. She will continue teaching youth at her newest home, Rainier Valley Leadership Academy. Her work is featured in Pacific Review Publication and Clamor. She holds an MFA in creative writing and poetics from the University of Washington, Bothell.
What’s one of the best pieces of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I had a professor who encouraged me to write in my natural voice during my undergraduate studies, before I knew what a natural voice was, and that really helped lead me to where I am now. I think I just always grew up thinking that poetry had to be very “eloquent” and Shakespearean. After I discovered that people of the global majority (aka BIPOC) are poets too, I felt more inspired by art and it reflected in my own writing. I always start my poems as journal prompts, and that takes me to where they need to be.
On a side note, when I took my first surrealism class, with that same professor, I realized the chaotic beauty that surrealism brings to poetry. Discovering surrealism felt like a tool I didn’t know I had. It helped me process and bring my thoughts to the page.
Where are some of your favorite places to write in Seattle?
Before our “new normal” I really loved hanging out at Boon Boona in Renton! Their coffee is amazing, and I love the community that they have built there. That’s my go to spot. I do also miss going to Elliott Bay Books and hanging at Little Oddfellows.
What are some things you’re enjoying about the Fellowship program so far?
I’m enjoying getting to know all the fellows! It feels nice to have a community of artists, especially through this time. The classes have also been pushing me to create more than I would in my own time.
Tell us more about your project.
My project came to me as I was going through my MFA in 2018. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I realized that I always ended up writing about my genealogy. I’ve always been curious about my ancestors and family history, it was something that wasn’t easily accessible growing up. My family has a history of mental health disorders and that’s where my questioning really began. My parents have lost many people in their immediate families to mental health, but also to war, and trauma. Much of what they’ve endured has been translated to me through my upbringing. I’m interested in grappling with the dysfunction it all creates.
Are there any writers whose work has been particularly helpful for you as you think about your project?
Bhanu Kapil, after I read The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers I felt like there were so many more questions that I wanted answered. It’s ironic because in that work of poetry, Kapil presents twelve curated questions that are repeated over and over again. Each time the question is answered differently. I was inspired by that book to create my own questions, which are either answered by myself, the journey of my parents’ lives or my ancestors.