Karisma Price ’17 Came to New York to Be a Writer

Karisma Price ’17 is an assistant professor of English at Tulane. A poet, screenwriter and media artist, she is the author of I’m Always So Serious, published recently by Sarabande Books. Her work has appeared in publications including Poetry, Indiana Review, Oxford American, Four Way Review and the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series. Price is a Cave Canem fellow; was a finalist for the 2019 Manchester Poetry Prize; was awarded the 2020 J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from the Poetry Foundation; and is the 2023 winner of the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from the American Poetry Review. A native New Orleanian, she holds an M.F.A. in poetry from NYU, where she was a Writers in the Public Schools fellow.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I was a shy 17-year-old who hadn’t traveled much outside of evacuating for Hurricane Katrina when I was 10. Most of my family lived in Louisiana and in other areas of the south, so I never had a reason to visit the East Coast, but I always wanted to come to New York because I was interested in writing and film. Since middle school I knew that I wanted to be a writer and I knew that being in New York would provide opportunities to help make that dream attainable. I was nervous being away from home, but I knew being accepted into Columbia would help me on my path.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I was in Carman my first year. I first came to the College the summer before freshman year because I was in the Academic Success Program. I don’t remember which dorm I was in originally, but I remember changing to Carman so I could be in the same building as the new friends I made during that summer program. We would all cram in one room to throw each other surprise birthday parties, have movie nights and do homework.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

I really enjoyed taking a creative writing seminar centered on “The Diva,” taught by Professor Deborah Paredez. It was required to see The Color Purple on Broadway. That semester we read both fiction and nonfiction texts on what it meant to be a diva when analyzing music, theater and writing. For my final portfolio, I remember writing a collection of poems about male soul singers. So often the diva label is put on women in a pejorative way, and I wanted to challenge that notion by writing about men, and use each poem to juxtapose their life to their music.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

I loved Butler Library. I know that’s a nerdy answer, but we’re all a little nerdy — we went to Columbia, lol. The building’s architecture is lovely and has high ceilings and chandeliers. It was truly a beautiful atmosphere to study in. My friends and I would get coffee and snacks from the cafe on the first floor and study in the open rooms with the large tables. It was a fun place to explore. You could truly get lost roaming around in there.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I would have relaxed a bit more and tried to explore New York more deeply as an undergrad. I was a first-gen college student so I was really serious about my studies (which is not a bad thing!). While at NYU, I got to explore the city more, but as a College student, it was really easy for me to stay in the bubble of the Upper West Side. I think I could have made a lot more memories if I had traveled more to different boroughs.