Happy tenth day of poetry month! And it’s a two-for-one post this Monday. First let me introduce you to debut poetess Maheen Ahmed. Here’s her interview:
1)What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry definitely means a lot to me. It’s one of the few things that I writer very well, and that I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. I think I started writing or re-writing small excerpts from novels or nursery rhymes when I was very young, and I started properly writing my own original content during the fifth grade.
Poetry helped me shine through in ways which I probably could not have otherwise, because I don’t think kids who write are as vocal about wanting to be a writer, as I was back then.
I think poetry was and is the best way for me to express how I feel deep down inside, especially when I’m feeling well about my life or the things that happen around me. Poetry can give me an answer- a way of escaping the scene, and it’s a good way so being able to pass on something which is more than just advice or just art.
And as for poetry, when it comes to reading, it’s always inspirational and uplifting. I do not really read a diverse group of poets, but the ones I do like; I read them over and over again, as if they were written specifically for me. And that may sound odd, but I think that is a great thing about the genre, it comes off as entirely simple and personal and is less restrictive compared to novels or a painting.
2) Explain your poetry writing process.
Most of the time I just hold on and wait for inspiration, which normally comes out of an emotion or situation that triggers me to think about a topic. And that special kind of uplifting inspiration can come anytime, like during a class lecture, while on the way to home, while listening to someone’s story and even during the night- mostly during the night.
I used to write poetry with hand on specific registers which I decorated and made pretty, now I just write them messily, anywhere. I also write my poems directly to the internet, and I don’t really edit them that much, which leaves plenty of grammar, mistakes in the mix.
Another thing I do to help the process is to read and listen to good poetry, and expose myself to good art, music and animation. That always helps.
But I am only this easy with poetry, with speeches, articles, short stories and blog posts I am pretty lazy and I let the ideas cook in my head for a long time. Which I think works for me, because I have not been as regular with short stories as I have been with poems.
3) Name one poet you wish more people knew about and why?
At this point, mostly me, because I do not feel known, but obviously I’ll get there when the time is right.
I do think that Pakistani writers do not get a lot of representation around the world, and the few that do break through tend to come out of a certain pool of people. And beyond that I feel like our writers who write in Urdu or any other regional language do not get the same global attention as our English writers, even if they are better, and well known in our own country .
So it is a weird situation, and people are missing out on a lot of poets of intense talent, whose work is filled with spirituality, love and self respect.
I would suggest writers like Warris Shah, Allama Iqbal, Baba Bulleh Shah, Parveen Shakir and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. They are all our national treasures, writing from different times and about different things, but inspirational nonetheless.
I hope to be as good as them one day.
4) What do you love the most about poetry?
I love what poetry does for people, how it can teach them about life, and guide them through the great confusions of being alone and not knowing what to do.
I love how there are no strong rules to writing poetry and the honesty and directness that goes into writing a poem.
5) Is poetry important?
Poetry is extremely important.
My mother was an English teacher, so I grew up loving literature and poetry, and she always included it in our day to day life, but she died I stopped writing altogether. I began to look at things with nothing, and I saw no point in the arts and viewed them as a waste of energy and resources. I did not see the need in poetry because I thought at that point, what difference this stuff makes in the world, or for poets, if their lives end up miserable.
I was extremely hopeless and lost, and oddly enough the same arts that I began to look down at, were what pulled me out of that belief. More than the arts, the actual influence it had on the life of people.
When we have nothing to say, we sing, and we tell stories. Poetry does that for people, both writers and readers; it gives them something to feel and something to talk about.
It creates a culture and protects history and keeps a nation inspired and amazed. It is something that can mean everything to one man, one child, and one heartbroken person to the whole world and be the change that they need, no matter how small or subtle it may be.
Poetry moves people, poetry heals them and it importance should never be in doubt.
You can find Maheen’s poetry book at:
Maheen Ahmed is a Pakistan poet in her 20’s, who has been writing for a long time, but published her debut poetry collection in late 2016. The title of the book is ‘Tell the Stars’, which is a collection of simple love poems, with hints of nostalgia.
Maheen Ahmed is currently her degree in English Literature from Kinnaird College in Lahore. She also has a keen interest in photography, music, movies and arts, and wants to do something special in her life.
She will also be publishing a new poetry book in 2017, titled ‘ Ramiz’.
You can follow Maheen at:
Instagram – @lahore_la_notte
Twitter – @maheenahmed2
This week’s poetess is Rita Dove.
Former Poet Laureate (1993-1995) and poet laureate of Virginia (2004-2006), Rita Dove also wrote short stories in addition to poetry. She’d also was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1987 and received 25 honorary doctorates. As well as received 1996 National Humanities Medal from former President Bill Clinton. And the 2011 National Medal of the Arts from former President Barack Obama.
Today’s poem, Canary, is a jazz elegy, written in honor of Billie Holiday. I’ve found especially moving the final line of the poem:
If you can’t be free, be a mystery.
Rita Dove “Canary”