Five poems from his “Umbilical Cord” appear in the twenty-fifth issue of Touch the Donkey.
Q: Tell me about “Umbilical Cord.”
“Umbilical Cord” is my second poetry collection, a follow-up to War/Torn. In the latest collection, I focus mostly on my new adventures as a dad to Malek with my husband Tarn. There is a mix of letters to my child, with poems that show how we got here, my love story with Tarn and Malek, our child. While War/Torn focused mainly on the struggle of reconciling between religion and identity, “Umbilical Cord” doesn’t mention religion not once. The book highlights the new chapter in my life.
Q: How does this project relate to some of the other work you’ve been doing lately?
A: All of my poems are like parts of my body. So, Umbilical Cord is similar to War/Torn in that the poems are personal, representing certain emotions during certain times of my life. Also, I used the words “umbilical cord” in War/Torn in some of the poems. The umbilical cord imagery itself is repeated again in my second poetry collection. In the second book, I explore with that image further and also focus more on my love story with Tarn and my own parenthood journey and the ups and downs.
Q: Do you have any models for this kind of work? Are there any other parenthood poems or literary works you’ve been looking at or thinking about?
A: Well, last year, I read the wonderful poetry book Q&A by Adrienne Gruber, that’s about her pregnancy and her parenthood journey. I’d say the book inspired me.
Q: With two published books-to-date, a forthcoming children’s book and your recently accepted second poetry collection, how do you feel your work has developed? Where do you see your work headed?
A: I definitely am so thankful for these opportunities to highlight my literary voice. After God in Pink was published, I would always read reviews on Goodreads because I’m always open to be a better writer. I appreciated all the feedback I received and I learned a lot. With every book I’ve been working on, I’m learning so much through my publishers, my editors, my peers and myself. I can’t express enough how much I appreciate all the book events I attend or I’m part of, all the interviews, collaborations, feedback I receive as author. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by creativity from all aspects which continuously inspire me to be the best I can be. I want to keep writing and work in different platforms to show that I’m a capable, versatile author. I’m also going to get back into one of my old passions of mine which is screenwriting. I went to Vancouver Film School and I completed the Writing program. I focused on my book writing for a while that I had forgotten all about it. So, I’m in talks with producers which will be future screenwriting projects. At the same time, I want to continue publishing stories that explore topics that are often silenced. I'm grateful for what I do and for everyone who has supported me throughout my writing career.
Q: Has your experience with screenwriting had any effect on the way you approach your poetry or your prose?
A: Most definitely, especially in the way I experimented with both prose and poetry. In God in Pink, there are two narrators and the story alternates back and forth, sometimes creating confusion. I wanted to show the assimilation of the voices and when they’re so different. So the novel felt like a screenplay. In War/Torn, the poem Mosque/Internal is in the form of a screenplay. I took a part from a screenplay I had written while attending Vancouver Film School. I turned the excerpt into a poem.
Q: What made you first shift away from the screenplay to fiction, and further, into poetry? What do you feel might be possible through fiction or poetry that might not be possible otherwise?
A: At the time after I graduated from Vancouver Film School, I was supposed to continue writing screenplays. However, I was still attending Simon Fraser University at the time and I was still working on an English BA. I took some time off of my BA when I focused on screenwriting. After I got back into SFU, during then, I was working on God in Pink and War/Torn. With prose and poetry, I am given the opportunities to experiment with form. Generally speaking with prose, it’s not a common to experiment. Poetry allows you to experiment a lot more of course. I experimented with form for both God in Pink and War/Torn and the act itself helped bring new meaning to the stories. Generally, I find it’s a lot easier to experiment with poetry than fiction—but both experiences have been rewarding.
Q: Finally, who do you read to reenergize your own work? What particular works can’t you help but return to?
A: I’m always reading, whether it’s a poetry book or a novel or graphic novel. I just finished reading Mona Eltahawy’s The Seven Necessary Sins for Women & Girls, a very powerful feminist manifesto that is detailed in showing how women and girls can destroy patriarchy. It’s brilliant on all levels. The passion that oozes out of the book is quite inspirational. I don’t usually re-read books. I only had to during my Academic career for essays and etc. If I’m reading a poetry book, I’ll re-read the poem to grasp new meaning.