Quick Bite with Saima Afreen

Calcutta is where she grew up. To breathe she churns poems; to earn a living she works as a journalist. Her poems have been featured in The McNeese Review, The Notre Dame Review, The Nassau Review, The Asian Age, The Telegraph, The Times of India, and many other publications. Her poems have been part of several anthologies. She was invited as a poet delegate to Goa Arts and Literature Festival, 2016, Guntur Poetry Festival, TEDx VJINET, Writers Carnival, Aliah University and several other poetry platforms. She is currently working on the manuscript of her first poetry book.

  1. Can you say something about what made you write your first poem?

I was 14 when began writing poems. All I can reminisce is, one day I was feeling really restless; there was an unnamed angst which boiled inside me and wanted to erupt, get scattered. I picked up my pen, opened my notebook and wrote a poem in iambic pentameter about a crushed rose, its mingling with dust; edited it and then sent the work to The Asian Age newspaper, which had a column for students who wrote poetry. I then knew that something has changed inside me which demands to be spilled on the paper tearing a sliver of my soul.

  1. What does poetry mean to you? What do you feel when writing poetry?

Poetry is an attempt to capture the zone that flickers briefly between the fields of light and darkness. In that short a duration a poet picks up what his eye catches, his mind registers and his cells record which may not be longer than the period when the fork between two leaves holds a raindrop only to let it fall the very next moment. This speck of time is distilled, crafted, resuscitated and then blown into life while it still remains a shadow of its own shadow. It holds the hand of the reader to make him part of this magical realm.

A sort of trance possesses me while I write poetry, the feeling is indescribable.

  1. Do you think poetry speaks to all kinds of people in all walks of life? How do you think we can take poetry out of its confined literary circle?

Poetry is wind, it’s always there. If you close the window and complain it’s sultry, you deny the breeze an invitation. Poetry is not rocket science, everyone can understand it and explore the journey the poet took to write the words. Can we see music? Why does an orchestra piece appeal to us? There’s something which connects with one’s being and makes one listen to it even when you don’t comprehend its nuances and the grammar involved.

Poetry isn’t confined in literary circles. If that were the case then mystic poet Rumi wouldn’t be embraced by so many people in today’s world. That’s how the other day at The Brew Room during the ongoing poetry session so many people turned up that there was hardly any space to stand, and trust me not all of them were students/aficionados of literature. Poetry festivals and reputed journals bring readers and poets together in a much faster way than before.

  1. When do you write poetry? Is there a specific time in a day? What makes you write a poem?

No. There is no specific day or mood for me to write. Poetry comes on its own, uninvited, unannounced. It doesn’t even knock, it just stares at the pen and seeps onto the paper without me realising what’s happening. The images, of course, are already there in the subconscious lending voice to the words, colour to the depiction. Often, while I draft my journalistic reports, poems find their way onto the page. It so happened that one day while I was mentioning Russian ballerinas in one of my articles, a poem seized me till I wrote it. I titled it ‘A Song for the Twisted Feet of a Russian Ballerina’ published in an issue of The McNeese Review.

  1. What do you think of this new wave of insta poetry of today? Would you treat it as poetry too?

Depends who’s writing what. Your question has the answer. We often see oh-that-poor-brown-girl-troubled-by-misogyny-racism kind of poems bringing myriads of likes on Insta pages. Does it have the beauty of craft? Is it different from the usual attention-grabbing cacophony? Not often. Sample the beauty in these lines from Nayyirah Waheed:

           can we speak in flowers

           it will be easier for me to understand.

                       — other language

At the same time, not all, in the ‘new wave of Insta poetry’, are capable of tenderness and mastery of words. It’s a trend with ‘#MeToo’ kind of poems, if at all they meet the condition of being called poems.

  1. Where do you want to take your work in the future in terms of poetry?

Poetry is epiphany. You are in constant motion where the topography changes with every step. You can harvest both fire and water without knowing which one will seep in your words. It’s a forest which moves, and with it you move. You can’t see anything while you are within it.

Thanks Prakriti foundation for the wonderful event.

Thanks Haris, Kirbaa Karan for the wonderful images!

Facebook Comments