Fatimah Asghar & Safia Elhillo | Halal If You Hear Me

and welcome to the rear book room my name is Peter and I help direct the events here at strand for a little bit of history strand was founded in 1927 by the bass family over on what was then a fourth avenues book row stretching from Union Square to Astor Place book row gradually dwindled until after 91 years strand as the sole survivor still run by the bass family and still housing new and used books tonight I am very excited to help launch the third volume of hay markets break beat poets anthologies how all if you hear me celebrating the voices of Muslim poets who are women queer genderqueer non-binary and/or trans it's an eclectic volume overstuffed with extremely talented and original authors here to discuss and introduce the compilation are the volumes editors self Sofia L Hill o is the author of the January children or a recipient of the 2016 sailormen first Book Prize for African poets Sudanese by way of Washington DC she is a 2016 pushcart prize nominee co winner of the 2015 Bernal International African poetry prize and listed in Forbes Africa's 2018 30 under 30 her fellowships and residency's include Cave Canem the conversation and space on Ryder farm her work appears in poetry magazine callaloo and the Academy of American poets poem and a series among others and in anthologies including the one we're here to celebrate tonight poet screenwriter educator and performer Fatima Asghar is Pakistani Muslim excuse me Pakistani Kashmiri Muslim American writer as she is the author of the poetry collection if they should come for us and they check book after she's also the writer and co-creator of the emmy-nominated brown girls a web series that highlights friendships between women of color her work has been featured in news outlets such as PBS NPR time and teen vogue The Huffington Post and others I couldn't be more thrilled to have them both with us here tonight so without further ado please join me in welcoming Fatima and Sofia to the Strand [Applause] hi everyone how are you guys doing good okay does this feel really far away a little bit like that can you guys hear me has it fun yeah okay so we're so excited to be here at Safi and I are gonna do something different that we normally do which is we're gonna read our essays out of this out of halal if you hear me which you've never actually read out loud before so it's like great you know you guys get an exclusive look at us so this essay is called finding the hammam the salon was where I went to feel safe like the Planned Parenthood across America the salons exterior was unwelcoming every inch of glass crowded and newspaper cut out so you couldn't see inside if you didn't know better you'd think it closed it wasn't like Planned Parenthood the newspaper is across the glass were there to block out the outside world to create a space where the woman inside could not be seen by the men who own the streets inside behind two doors the salon was immaculate the receptionist had beautiful curly black hair and then were usually five or six women sitting around her all sipping tea and discussing the latest in their lives it was more of a mini mall than a salon there was a sugar waxing studio a nail salon a gym and a locker with a Turkish bath hammam and showers where the women would gather naked in the water and talk for hours I had never been in a hammam before I had joined the salon simply because I wanted to use the gym and run on a treadmill freely in shorts without the risk of being harassed I was living in Jordan studying abroad in Amman for a semester to better my Arabic it was the first time my Pakistani American ass was for real for real outside the Western world which despises Islam and Muslims in my first few weeks in Jordan I'd been followed home twice from the bus by strange men hope to marry me my host brothers had to chase them out of our backyard it became quite clear to me that I couldn't just walk outside freely without a man to help protect me places that were inside with mostly woman became my only realm for real safety while I lived there it's not all that different from America I was in middle school when the towers fell my formative years were defined by the vitriolic racism and Islamophobia that plagued America and its wake while most kids were worried about the sudden new Sencha Bo coming from their armpits I was hiding in my school's bathroom afraid of being followed home or called a terrorist I became used to harassment not in just terms of race and religion but also as a woman walking about the world in my high school hallways I was regularly groped by the hands of young men when I was trying to get to class once a classmate followed me out of my class on my way to the bathroom and pinned me against a locker while he felt me up and I had to quite literally shout for him to get off of me he wasn't even reprimanded the teacher who heard my scream just told us the Safa goop to stop goofing around and get back to class the next day when I walked to the train station from school he laughed with his friends and shouted he see those sideburns dude she has to be a man as hairy as she is boys will be boys as they say and reap the benefits of a patriarchal world a world that is built on boys will be boys violence a world where woman FEM gender non-conforming trans and queer people by design can never fit safely inside the street harassment in Jordan was only surprising to me because my naive self expected more from Muslim men I was so excited to be living in a Muslim majority place for the first time in my life I hadn't even considered street harassment would happen I expected it to be more like a family reunion where we would all dance and sing together and practice Islam in whatever ways that we saw fit aunties and uncles would greet me at the bus stop with sweets we would all roll out our prayer mats in the streets and pray together delighting and how our relationship with God was our own and free from judgment that was far from the case on sight many we'll judge me as a haram II a Muslim woman brimming with sim with sin going straight to hell my uncovered and often wet hair my SATs my sandals showcasing my exposed feet and my Western clothes were all sites of scorn this all changed in the salon and here woman took off their hijabs and they uncovered and covered blended in together without worry woman talked openly about sex showing each other lacy lingerie they had bought for a special night with their husbands bodies soaked in the warm water for hours as recipes were exchanged and hair and nail tips were passed through the pools I didn't feel judged I just felt like I could come as I was lose track of time and spend hours just being here for a froot for a few brief moments every day we were free one day the receptionist ran down the halls of the salon flinging her hijab around her and screaming a man is here a man is here a man a maintenance man had come to fix a pipe that was broken in the building and was being sequestered between the two doors by non hijab' woman the air shifted the tension so thick it hung like a spoiled wedding cake throughout the complex from corners I had never before notice women began pulling out shawls and draping themselves in them a few women locked themselves in the waxing room turned the light off and pressed themselves against the wall to avoid being seen like the lockdown drills we'd practice in middle school water splashed as wet bodies left the hammam rolls jiggling with the force of running emergency hijabs flying through the air within a minute woman who had previously been fully naked were completely covered not a wisp of hair in sight I can't remember how long the maintenance man took ten minutes an hour we were all absolutely still unmoving not even the whir of a treadmill going when he left we all breathe freely again and that is when I knew that this place was nothing short of magic that I could live in the salon forever at a reading a few weeks ago an audience member asked me how I would describe my poetics in a few words I said I wanted them to be Haram ANSI poetics the auntie who you can talk – about sex and sexuality who you can go to and you can't go to your parents another audience member asked what I hope my poems would do in the world I told them if one of my poems could make someone else feel seen feel safe for a brief moment feel a little less alone I would have accomplished my goal the two answers are really the same far too many times I put myself in violent situations particularly sexual because I felt an alumnus and other nasaw the many things I was within an identity that was accepted Muslim Pakistani Kashmiri American queer lower-class femme orphan sometimes woman sometimes man sometimes neither disposable what's the cost of a Muslim girl writing the poems the way I do I have already lost so much what more can I stand to lose it's the 21st century and we still live in a world of honor killings a world where rape is rationalized a world where trans women particularly black and brown trans women are being murdered without justice a world where police murder black civilians and go unpunished a world where the murders of Muslim people are not considered hate crimes a world where queer people are thrown out of their homes the world where girls are married off before they can even name their own desire what's the cost of writing poems the way we do join me join us let us create a poetics that recreates the hammam where we can come in our real naked skin sit in the water and talk openly where all of us the hijabis the hurrah means the uncovered the gender-nonconforming the queer the married that never married the virgins the non virgins of brown the black the wipe yellow can just be can just be seen can just be heard can just be celebrated can live exist and make our own freedoms thank you guys okay I'm gonna read a few poems and then we're gonna hear from Sofia and then we'll open up for questions does anyone know what partition is okay cool so I'm gonna I'm gonna read a little bit of an excerpt of what partition is and then read a poem called partition at least 14 million people were forced into migration as they fled the ethnic cleansing and retributive genocides that consumed South Asia during the india-pakistan partition which led to India and East and West Pakistan zindabad an estimated 1 to 2 million people died during the months encompassing partition an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 women were abducted and raped partition remains one of the largest forced migrations in human history its effects and divisions echo to this day his poem is called partition your Kashmiri until they burn your home take your orchards stake a different flag until no one remembers the road that brings you back your Indian until they draw a border through Punjab until the british captain spit Bakke as they sip your chai add so much foam you can't taste home your strikey until your mouth fills with English if your Pakistani until your classmates ask what that is then your Indian again or some kind of Spanish you speak a language until you don't until you only recognize it between your auntie's lips your father was fluent in four languages you're illiterate in the tongues of your father your grandfather wrote Persian poetry on glasses maybe you can't remember you made it up someone lied you're a daughter until they bury your mother until you're not invited to your father's funeral you're a virgin until you get too drunk you're Muslim until you're not a virgin you're Pakistani until they start throwing acid you're Muslim until it's too dangerous you're safe until you're alone you're American until the towers fall until there's a border on your back I'm gonna read one more poem we're gonna turn it over this poem is called if they come for us these are my people and I find them on the street and shadow through any wilds all wild my people my people a dance of strangers and my blood the old woman sorry dissolving to wind bindi a new moon on her forehead I claim her my kin and so the star of her to my breast the toddler dangling from stroller hair a fountain of dandelion seed at the bakery I claimed them to the Sikh uncle at the airport who apologizes for the pat-down the Muslim man who abandons his car at the traffic light drops to his knees at the call of the azan and the Muslim man who drinks good whiskey at the start of motherhood the lone caller at the park pairing her kurta with Crocs my people my people I can't be lost when I see you my compass is brown and gold and blood my compass a Muslim teenager snapped back in high tops gracing the subway platform masha'Allah I claim them all my country is made in my people's image if they come for you they come for me too in the dead of winter a flock of auntie step out on the sand there the butters turned to ocean a colony of uncles grind their palms and a thousand Jasmine's Bell the air my people I follow you like constellations we hear glass smashing the street and the night's opening dark our names this country's wood for the fire my people my people the long years we've survived the long years yet to come I see you map my sky the lights your lantern long ahead and I follow I follow thank you [Applause] hi okay I too have never read this out loud and foxy and I are both fasting so if my voice just gives out halfway through this is called good Muslim bad Muslim I didn't have a Muslim community growing up because I was afraid white people were mostly an abstraction for me as a child and so was their judgment a question about my accent here a comment about my body hair there they didn't know early on specific enough ways to really hurt me the ones with that particular tool kit were my own people a comment that Sudanese Sunday school about how I wore such tight jeans because I didn't have a father at home whispers about my divorced mother my hair was this my complexion was that my Arabic to this to that my family was this I was too new than too Americanized I memorized their voices anticipate anticipated their critique this t-shirt was too short and revealed the role of fat above my hips this one was too tight and cupped my non-existent breasts I was a child really there was no reason for anyone to be looking at my body that way but I would pull on a pair of jeans and anticipate that anticipate eyes on the curve they made of my lower half the way they molded to my ass or didn't I spent most of my early adolescence swimming in fabric a gray fleece gap sweater that I wore every day boys cargo pants oversized souvenir t-shirts my mother brought me from her travels my own secular kind of covering I didn't want anyone to look at me to say anything as an adult now with plenty of trauma at the hands of white people the judgment I still fear the most is by those meant to be my people I screenshot horrible things Muslim men say to me on the internet and read and reread their messages into the night I read and reread the comments left on a photo of mine by a man I do not know telling me in Arabic that my nose ring does not look good on me the comment is so small probably typed in passing it takes over my entire day I eventually delete it but still cannot stop talking about it months later I have spent really my whole adult life and most of my adolescence most of my childhood trying to avoid being talked about in any capacity people will talk with a governing principle in my upbringing and my culture a way of letting me know I should not do something like cut my hair short wear clothes that are too tight wear clothes that are too loose be photographed with men curse on the internet talk about my body pierced my nose double pierced my ears wear my hair in its natural curls to a wedding wear a hoop nose ring without giving the direct instruction I've been afraid for ever performing my identity incorrectly my Muslim this my Sudanese nasai womanhood all of it I was a solitary kid introverted and always reading painfully shy I look to books to teach me how people were with each other how they talked how they touched how they played how they trusted how they mourned I practiced alone at night jokes pronunciations nicknames I wanted people to give me tools of American girlhood like playing with my hair and keeping things in the back pocket of my jeans I wasn't in any of the books I was reading maybe a sliver here or there a character with brown skin with parents from somewhere else with curly hair but never the full extent of my intersection I also wasn't seeing anyone ever talk about the nuances available in Muslim identity at least not for women I grew up watching men I knew drink and smoke and go to mosque all in the same day there Muslim this felt like it made a room for everything in their lives the women I knew were not at all afforded this nuance they were regarded either as religious or as secular there was nothing in between so I grew up hearing and using terms like bad Muslim and good Muslim and thinking of them as fixed identities my first semester of college I was scared and overstimulated and homesick and sad and did not pray for months and so I thought I was a bad Muslim and thinking of myself as a bad Muslim allowed more months to pass without prayer because praying started to feel like something I didn't deserve to do I'm worn to my good Muslim –less I felt my whole life growing increasingly opaque outside to how Muslim I felt inside I didn't have anyone to talk to about it I'd meet new people who didn't know for months that I was Muslim I'd meet other Muslims and obsessed later about what they were saying about the fact that I've been wearing shorts that was very lonely the poems and essays in this anthology are the Muslim community I didn't know I was allowed to dream of the Muslim community in which my child self could have blossomed proof of the fact that there is many ways to be Muslim as there are Muslims that my way was one of those ways was a way of being Muslim that did count the writers in this anthology demonstrate the sheer cacophony of Muslim Ness of Muslim identities of Muslim people the range of things were allowed to say and feel and want and mourn and joke about were accustomed at this point to media and with in which assist straight Muslim man gets to express his flawed Muslim myths to mess up and stray away and return and sin and repent and everything else that humans do but the Cistus the straightness the maleness of these voices has kept them safe in their expression of their flaws and they're trying to find their unique place within Islam there are no stones for their bodies no disowning x' no honor killings but what about a safe space for those who keep getting left out of the conversation about Muslims and Muslim this how about populating the conversation in a way that's more representative of what the Muslim population actually looks like my hope is that this anthology is a step in that direction and that this anthology is a space where we don't have to be afraid of our own people of being disqualified from our own identities some freedom albeit brief from the governance of shame this community that is existed in our community all along all over its margins as long as I thought it would so I guess I'm going to read more than one poem because I budgeted 10 minutes for that vocabulary fact the Arabic word hawa means wind the Arabic word hawa means love test multiple choice I've done Halim said you left me holding wind in my hands or Abdel Halim said you left me holding love in my hands abdel halim was left empty or abdel halim was left full Fairuz said o wind take me to my country or Fairuz said all love take me to my country Fairuz is looking for vehicle or Fairuz is looking for fuel Uncle Phil said where the wind stops her ships we stopped ours or I'm consumed said where love stops her ships we stopped ours Uncle Phil is stuck or Uncle Phil is home second quarantine with abdel halim hafez the lyrics do not translate arabic is all verbs for what stays still in other languages the spot so morning what the translation to awake cannot honor cannot contain its rhyme with this bath to swim to make the night a body of water I am here now and I am not buoyant I'm 28 and always sick small for my age and always translating I cannot sleep through the night no language has given me the rhyme between ocean and wound that I know to be true sometimes when the doctors draw my blood I feel the word at the edge of my tongue Halim sings ha ha I'm drowning I'm drowning the single word for all the water in his throat does not translate Halim sings teach me to kill the tear and its duct Halim sings I have no experience in love nor have I a boat and I know he cannot rest cannot swim through the night I am looking for a voice with a wound in it a man who could only have died by a form of drowning but the song take its time but the ocean close back up and what is a country but the drawing of a line today I draw thick black lines around my eyes and they are a country and thick red lines around my lips and they are a country and the knife that chops the onions draws a smooth line through my finger and that is a country and the tightening denim presses a soft purple line into my belly and when I smile like my mother a line flashes between my two front teeth and for every country I lose I make another and I make another thank you so I think we're gonna do now is open it up to questions if anyone has any I seem to remember you guys talking about alternative titles on Twitter for a little bit could you go through some of the ones that you rejected and why this one was the one that stuck this one I mean it just came from a long list of Muslim puns and this one was the funniest we also had another life I love the lights Allahu Akbar we have a few most of these were courtesy of my friend Nate Marshall ya who's very good at puns and is a friend to the Muslim people this isn't a poem but Rhonda Gerrard has an essay about BDSM as a Muslim woman who has sex with Muslim men in it and it's really like I like clutch my pearls and I'm like but I love it it's like really beautiful and freeing and it's just like not a thing that I ever thought I would be allowed to read yeah things are really great there's also Momina muscles essay of dark rooms in foreign languages that's a really beautiful essay and that essay reads kind of like a poem it's so lyrical I like pull this out so I can look and see what some of my favorite ones are I love sabi Hassan's poem Jesus at Winfield station is a great one and it's new awesome that has a poem called freedom bar oh I think so Nora a bit in the jobs poem hypothesis bitch faces really that's a great one yeah I love I used to Sharif's poems in here they're also just so many of like my favorite poets are in the synth ology you have London Osman is in there Watson she-dre kava Akbar just like all your favorite poets favorite boats are Muslim it turns out there's a lot of really good stuff hi my sister-in-law so as a person who like how would you recommend to someone who doesn't generally read poetry or how would you recommend reading a book of poetry like you go in order do you like slam through it like a novel do you like you know sit with it after it like it was well poem for like an hour like how would you recommend reading a book poetry so with this anthology we tried to be intentional about the order toward the efforts we just had everything in alphabetical order and it's really boring so with this I think they're arranged to have sort of like an ebb and flow intentionally but also I think you kind of lose a lot of the beauty and the fun in a poem when you read it for meaning when you read it trying to like have it like reveal its answers to you so I like to think of a poem like a piece of music it like you it's kind of a sensory experience and it's more about how it makes you feel than anything else and like like if you make meaning of it cool great but like mostly like it should make you feel like tingly and sensations yeah and I think I mean anthology is different because I they're if there's so many writers there's like sixty five writers in that and the anthology right and so it's kind of a way where we ordered it also based on the five pillars of Islam that's how we like organize this book that way and so a lot of the poems in the sections are in conversation with each other but you can also just read like you could be like it's in this section I'm like this is why it's there you know and then our own personal books like there's a lot of thought in terms of the order and the way that the order plays out but also like I feel you know poems are yeah they're just meant to be you don't have to read them in order or if you're like this one isn't particularly moving me like it I think it's like totally fine to like move on if you're like I don't understand it or like I love to skip something for not having a good time you know I think that's like what's great about like something like poetry that's like short for him in that way so the very first step was when we came up with the idea for the anthology we just made a list of every person whose identity fit the criteria that we could think every poet that we come up with and we emailed them to solicit work from them and then maybe a month or so after that we opened up for general submissions and part of the reason it said we were working on the tenth ology for three years and part of the reason it took so long is that we expected like a slow trickle of submissions and it was mostly going to be people that we knew that we'd solicited and we have like a slim little chat book and it would be fine and then a lot of people submitted and fatty and I just are not good at like admin stuff which is the thing that no one tells you like curating an anthology is not like about art it's about emails and spreadsheets and like you know so and neither of which is like in our particular skill set so it just took like a couple years of like sifting through those emails and selecting poems and then we did a round of edits with a couple of people we had a version of the manuscript ready to go we sent it up to the publisher and they're like hey guys this is so long please cut 75 pages so we had to go back in again and you know tweak here and there but it yeah we mostly just like read a lot of poems answered a lot of emails we got the interns I think sometime in the last second years yeah shout out to Beza who is the real reason this anthology exists because if it was just me a Fafi it would still be like a saenuri email yeah yeah I think to kind of echo that to is like the amount of submissions we got was was so beautiful and overwhelming and and lovely we could have made the anthology like we could have made like a different version of this anthology and included the same amount of quality poems from different people it was like kind of overwhelming how much stuff we got and that I feel like just speaks to the fact that there is like so many people who fit this these identities and how who like you know are making their art and like that's just a really like beautiful thing to me because that means that I'm just really excited to just kind of see those voices continue to pour proliferate Haram if you see me possibly I mean here's the thing there are still enough poems in the inbox to make like several more anthologies do I personally ever want to edit in another anthology probably not but someone should do it is there like a sense of like dialog or communication or community coming from or like being the necks all um– in this series no in the poems no there's a lot of overlap between contributors who yeah they're like a handful of people who have been in every break be poets so far there should be a prize for people the wonder that comes out next year is called Latin next so there's like we'll see if we can get like a foreign Thal gee poet and see who that person is who's like particularly for our anthology stuff and I have this idea like before we knew our publisher so we had the idea and then we were like we're gonna make this anthology we had already accepted submissions and had the idea of like the general shape of the anthology that contributors that we were gonna have before we even went out to publishers and then you know Nate and Kevin who run the breakbeat imprint of Haymarket were like hey we want this for the breakbeat you know anthology but it was like soft and I had already formed our anthology fully before we went over and so then we were like oh this really does it's not really good with break B but sure and whereas I think both breakbeat the original one and black girl magic came from the from the idea that they were in lineage of breakbeat and so is a lot the next one so ours is the outlier but it's because we did it on our own and then we kind of brought it over even like the full title of the break be poets is new American poetry in the age of hip-hop and there there's like a fair amount of international contributors in this one we're to the point where the copy editors kept being can we keep the spelling of color the British way or should we streamline you know so there's it it kind of is not like a necessarily like uniquely American conversation that we're interested in having here in the way that I think the other breakbeat series is like really interested in like our place in American poetics thank you both so much for for coming here and sharing your poetry I've followed your work for some time so it's really exciting this is kind of a combination of two previous questions but how was curating the work for something like this anthology and and kind of ordering it different from how you approached your own work in like I don't know that you both contributed to this as well obviously but how is like contributing to an anthology that you were curating kind of different like did you write the poems and then try to slot them in or were you like oh like this is a gap in the story or so be really really are individual poems in the anthology or deeply kind of an afterthought and that we liked it was like literally like yeah it was like the last thing on the to-do list we had basically everything put together and we're like wow we should probably put some poems in here Haymarket give me like where are you guys at poems and I was like oh soppy is probably their great she'll send them and I'm like but the process of ordering it was actually really similar to how I think we order our individual projects where there gets to be a point in the process where you just have to print the whole thing out and spread it out on the floor and like I'm sorry til and every tree but it just doesn't work on the computer you need to be able to like read it like a book which is what we just both had to do we assign there four sections of poetry and then the essays and we each took two sections of poems and we're in charge of ordering them so we each printed out half of the manuscripts and ordered it but I don't know that there was like but it's a thing that I can articulate but it's just something like clicks in place when everything is in the right order and as you read each section like a book it's you know you start to feel like wow this poem like feels really out of place this early in the section and but that kind of thing yeah it's a good highly intuitive process and I think that but for the bulk of halal if you hear me and editing and ethology its curation work and so it's really not about the order like I think that there was a way where like the book was very abstract until like the final moments and we've been working on this for three years you know until the final moments of like actually when we click to the order and then we were like oh like we have a book it's like gonna come out and I think also there's a way where with this book I feel like super protective of like the people in the book like I feel very um like a little fear fiercely protective of them and look very proud of them you know even though I've never met most of them I'm just like it's just a mama bear over here it's like super proud and in your own book there's a real different like vulnerability like you know like I think when I remember when my book came out I was like oh this is like the stupidest thing I've ever done you know and everyone is gonna hate me and I really forgot it's gonna be terrible because it's like a deeply vulnerable thing that you're like here is this thing that I'm sharing and I think that there's like a particular way where our friend Morgan said this like last week I was on a panel with her and she was like the world is like a really uh new installed and poetry like our job as poets is to like um like re re complicate the conversation and there's a lot of ways where I feel like when you're recom placated something you you're worried that people will flatten it right so you're worried that people will take the like their thing or though or they'll misunderstand or there's whatever and with some of it you have to kind of like let it go you know and then with this particular book I think there's really a thing where I think folks have like sometimes put a lot on to it that isn't or just like there's a misunderstanding sometimes of it right like oh look at these like weird Muslims who are doing this weird thing and it's like no like alternative Muslims and that's like absolutely not what it is right it's like us actually fighting against that narrative it's like us fighting to be like this isn't an alternative Islam this is what Islam is and and for you to not consider this as an issue you know and so I think that there's like a lot of kind of like stuff in the anthology like on a political front I feel like we've been kind of like pushing back against um if that makes sense I think even choosing to have the section headings be kind of abstract and that the sections are named at the five section there are five pillars of Islam and the poems within the sections are like loosely arranged by theme but I think there would have been like a bad version of this where we like like broke things up into like specific like themes and ideas and like you know politicize tropes or whatever and I think that is like a book that some people like open hollow if you hear me looking to read and that book sounds boring to me personally so we need to make that book but you know I think it's it's not going to it's not a book that's like you open it and it's just a gazillion pages of people telling you how much it sucks to be a Muslim because I don't wanna read that book honestly I don't I'm not interested in reading the book that's like now more than ever in Donald Trump's America as a Muslim I don't read that book either so it felt important to kind of abstract a lot of the the structure of the book to keep people from trying to like project some agenda on to it that it's like kind of takes away from the real agenda of the book which is to be interesting and then again I think that that's still there the to is like there are poems that are about like what am what it means to like be Muslim in you know under dawn on top what it means to like be both Muslim and queer and see the pulse shooting go down or there's like a lot of things that are like that and I think that what it is is like an attempt for us to be like not just to do again to recom placate to be like oh we're not just gonna be out here being like joy joy joy joy but we're gonna also not be like pain pain pain pain pain right like we want everything to kind of exist together because that's what it means to be human and so that was like a real kind of thing and what we found was like a lot of people felt somewhere ways like there's a real feeling of loneliness that like a lot of Muslim poets feel and that's often because a lot of us are in diaspora right like that that kind of diasporic sense of loneliness is such a unique and specific thing and people are writing into that right like that makes sense that people are doing that right um there was a lot that I felt like you could see commonalities throughout you know that I thought were really important yeah I think even going back to how we chose some of the poems I think it was really important for us to showcase just the range of like styles and interest in subject matter that we were seeing in the submissions you know so like yes there's a lot of pain because it like kind of sucks to be in this world sometimes there is a lot of joy because sometimes it's great to be in this world but also like a lot of the poems in the book are really funny and like really nasty and you know our like scandalous so that was also like a really important part of the project as well where I think there is maybe this idea that like to be a Muslim poet is to write a certain way and I think we wanted to explode that idea in that you know like Muslims are funny no one everyone's talking about how Muslims are so funny was there a difference in what you were looking for from poems versus what you were looking for were from essays the one thing was like we weren't looking at fiction right like it was just a thing where what we didn't want was like we wanted things to be grounded in some kind of it just it felt unruly to go into fiction do like that and that was the thing was we were getting people like emailing us being like can we submit fiction can we submit the short stories and I was like no like we it's – it becomes too big of a project for us then to handle that also it just even like within the essay some people wanted to submit more like straightforward academic essays so the essays are like specifically like creative nonfiction we you know it's just clunky earthen yeah like lyrical fiction like oh sorry lyrical nonfiction yeah yes I think because it was all in the realm of lyrical creative writing we were kind of looking for similar things at the level of craft and at the level of the line we just wanted the writing to be beautiful and nuanced and interesting and to recom placate the conversation in some way so there's while a lot of the essays have like a more clear-cut like thesis this is what this essay is about as opposed to this is what this poem is about they still it's not there's still a lot of nuance in the essays in a way that we wanted them to be able to hold their own in a book full of poems as well where it's not like okay now that all the beauty is done let's like have some essay so it all has to kind of do its work as language any other questions I just wanted to ask did you originally plan to have essays in the anthology and also – um this especially the Sofia because I know you use Arabic in a lot of your forms um have you had anyone or like a published anyone say like like you know can I give you a weird local something like when they noticed there was Arabic in the thing or like that you plan to mix up two languages so I think we always knew that we wanted to have essays specifically because of the we didn't know that we were going to be part of the breakbeat series but just in we were in a moment where a lot of our friends had been curating anthologies and doing really beautiful work of having poems and essays and conversation with each other and I think we wanted to do that as well and they're also just we came across so many beautiful essays while we were like looking on the internet from Muslim writers that I don't want a version of this book that doesn't have those essays you know and as far as it's not ever from publishers who have a an issue with the Arabic I use but a lot of you know most like journals and magazines and whatever don't necessarily have an Arabic speaking person on their staff or person who reads Arabic so there would be a lot of times where I'll send a poem out to be published and then I'll get a contributor copy and all the Arabic is like backwards and jumbled or something and just no one on the editing side knew that it was wrong and even to have to go back and forth over email and try to explain what I mean that it's backwards or like you know a lot of like things get corrupted and conversion so Arabic is a cursive language I have a lot of versions of poems in the world that like the poem the letters are disconnected and it's horrible it keeps me up at night but it that's like at that level it's usually just people are like irritated on like an editing and printing level where they're just like why are you making my job so hard just like speak English and I used to have a hard time in workshop in the MFF with bringing in that had Arabic text in them because I think people like feel it kind of way when you bring in something they can't access and I was trying to I you know I make a real effort for the English part of the poem to be able to exist and do its work whether or not you can read Arabic and if that's not working that means I failed in my undertaking of the poem not that like you know if you feel like you have to be able to access the Arabic text to get the whole poem then like the poem like needs a couple more rounds of edits but I think just people like really bristle at not being able to have access to this thing like in the midst of a language they have literacy in so I would have people in workshop asked me to just write out the Arabic words in English sounds I'd be like you're still not gonna know the word means and it looks ugly so like why do you want to ruin my home but it's you know I haven't been in school in a couple years so things are better now

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