When and why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I became a member in 2013, the same year I decided to marry my personal and professional commitments to writing.

What is most meaningful to you about PEN Center USA?
I find the work that PEN Center USA does to foster witnesses ineffably meaningful—we’d be even more lost without art and artists who insist on converting our capacity for passive spectatorship into an alert and active witnessing.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
At each station in my journey as a writer, generous mentors have challenged me by imagining me into spaces with more freedoms. In many ways, the hardest risk was the first one: belief. Each of these visions startled me because they included potential and positivity and power that this poor black boy just wasn’t walking around with inside his head. It would have been easier to dismiss them. Hope can be hard. Hope can be dangerous. But I didn’t dismiss them, thank goodness. Instead, I decided to honor their visions, however startling, both on and off the page—to recognize the luck and authority and comfort of having someone start the hard work of believing in our freedoms, despite the odds, of writing and reading toward the next liberation.

Writers are using their digital media platforms to engage with readers and other writers on serious topics. Can you give an example of a writer or organization that is doing this well?
#BlackPoetsSpeakOut (initiated by Amanda Johnston, Jericho Brown, Mahogany Browne, Jonterri Gadson, and Sherina Rodriguez-Sharpe) has sparked fierce conversation, advocating widely and vehemently for voice, justice, and safety of at-risk bodies. Also, Saeed Jones (@theferocity). Even as someone who is less literate/proficient with regard to digital media platforms, I have registered and appreciated that influential presence on Twitter, Buzzfeed, etc. And I’m always excited to see the fine work of Angel Nafis, Morgan Parker, and The Other Black Girl collective (@theotherblkgirl), online or otherwise.

What are you working on now?
Right now, in addition to completing a critical monograph and my second full-length book of poems, I’m working on a collaborative project called Begotten, with California-based poet F. Douglas Brown. We’ve been writing and compiling poems that grapple with fatherhood and masculinity. It should be out this fall.

Geffrey Davis is the author of Revising the Storm (BOA Editions 2014), winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist. Other honors include Cave Canem fellowships, the Anne Halley Poetry Prize, the Dogwood Prize in Poetry, the Wabash Prize for Poetry, the Leonard Steinberg Memorial/Academy of American Poets Prize, and nominations for the Pushcart Prize. His poems have been published by The Academy of American Poets, Crazyhorse, The Greensboro Review, The Massachusetts Review, Mississippi Review, The New York Times Magazine, and Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, among other places. Davis grew up in Tacoma, Washington—though he was raised by much more of the Pacific Northwest—and he teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Arkansas.


Check out our past Member Profiles here.