A Cameroonian and American poet reflects on her time at American River College and how it brought her writing to a matured exploration of her two competing cultural identities.
Viola Allo grew up in Cameroon and moved to the United States in 1998, the same year she began attending American River College, where she completed her associates degree in general science.
Allo continued on to UC Davis for her BA in psychology and then went on to the University of Michigan for her graduate studies in anthropology.
Allo returned to Sacramento in 2007, and after struggling to find work during the recession, she enrolled back into ARC in fall of 2008 and signed up for her first creative writing workshops.
“Over the course of three years, I completed all the creative writing workshops at ARC,” Allo said. “I took courses taught by Michael Spurgeon, Harold Schneider, David Merson and Lois Ann Abraham. Their feedback on my writing helped me immensely.”
At the age of 28 Allo began writing with a deeper awareness of who she wanted to become, and began to think of herself as a writer.
“I became a poet,” said Allo.
The most popular theme for Allo’s work is focused majorly on her two identities.
“I write about my childhood and schooling in Cameroon. I write about motherhood. I write about being biracial and bicultural,” said Allo. “My father is Cameroonian and my mother is American so I explore the difference between their cultural worlds.”
Allo uses her writing as an outlet to try and understand herself and speak for those like her.
“I am especially fascinated by the quest for identity, especially for people who experience the displacement and disorientation that can come with migration and with being multiracial and multiethnic,” said Allo.
As for where her name has appeared, Allo has been published in the American River Review, ARC’s award winning magazine literary magazine.
“Some of my very first poems were published in the American River Review, and I feel indebted to this incredible literary magazine for giving me the confidence and faith I needed in order to keep envisioning my life as a writer,” said Allo.
She is also a contributing writer at the African Book Review. She has her own blog called “Letters to Cameroon” and in April, 2015, her first chapbook, “Bird From Africa,” was published by Akashic Books and the African Poetry Book Fund.
After her second time around at ARC, Allo didn’t know where to go to find the same support and guidance.
“Fortunately the creative writing faculty, with support from the campus administration, created SummerWords, the annual creative writing conference,” said Allo.
“I look forward to attending SummerWords each year, it has given me the opportunity to keep learning from all the incredible creative writing faculty, as well as from the guest authors and panelists they invite.”
Allo plans to spend the rest of her life as a poet and a writer.
“I want to publish poems that inspire people. I believe that poetry has the power to uplift humanity,” said Allo. “I would love to be able to teach creative writing. I dream of giving students the same kind of support that the creative writing faculty at ARC have given me.”
Said ARC English professor Christian Kiefer, “She’s a remarkably talented creative force and one who I’m sure we’ll be seeing great work from in the future. Her life perspective comes from a place that is uniquely her own and that perspective appears in her work with great beauty, intensity, and grace.”