WE HAVE TO BREATHE THROUGH POETRY TO MAKE LIFE MEANINGFUL – An Interview with Amirah Al Wassif By Peter Kwange.

Amirah Al Wassif is a freelance writer based in Egypt. Her prolific output includes general interest articles, novels, short stories, songs, and of course, poetry. Five of her books have been written in Arabic and much of her English works have appeared in a great many cultural magazines. Her works have been translated into Spanish, Kurdish, Hindi and Arabic. Amirah Al Wassif’s poems have appeared in several print and online publications including South Florida Poetry, Birmingham Arts Journal, Hawaii Review, The Meniscus, The Chiron Review, The Hunger, Writers Resist, Right Now, and others. Amirah also has a poetry collection, For Those Who Don’t Know Chocolate (Poetic Justice Books & Arts, 2019), and a children’s book, The Cocoa Boy and Other Stories published in February 2020.

Peter:  For someone, writing a poem for the first time is like releasing a missile out. The person becomes free from a kind of internal burden or pressure. At what point did you write your first poem and what did you feel?

Amirah:  When I wrote my first poem, I had no steps or plans for writing poetry. I just sat on my funny couch and started to write. I wrote what I felt. I wrote what I imagined. I put some words together without thinking to make sense. I write to get rid of my pressure. I write to free myself and it would be a great pleasure if I succeed and could free someone else.

Peter:  You have five of your books written in Arabic and some of your works translated into Spanish, Kurdish, Hindi and much of your works in English. What do you usually feel about this huge success?

Amirah: Although I feel so excited to achieve those goals in my writing career, but I see it as just the beginning. I feel so grateful to have all the successes and opportunities. However, I feel so nervous about the next step. I am working hard and I hope to make my message spread to the word.

PeterWhy are you passionate about producing literary works for children and teens?

Amirah:  Actually, I love to write in all genres. I have written a poetry collection and a children’s book and presently, I am working on my first novel. I love to express myself in English, and in all kinds of genre. Writing children and teen’s books bring me fun. I love to write about adventures and fairy tales which create delicious in the eye and in the soul. Writing in all genre is my favourite.

Peter: Someone people believe poetry teaches us how to live and help us appreciate the world around us. To you, what is the role of poetry in the society?

Amirah:  Poetry is a precious thing to live with and to live through. I believe that poetry could save us. Its role is so essential in the society. We have to breathe through poems to make life meaningful.

Peter: A friend of mine who is a writer sees traveling as a way of conversing with different kinds of people, cultures, nature and the universe itself. To me, whenever I am traveling, I hear the universe sing new songs and I get new lyrics. Does traveling have a special place in your heart?

Amirah: Actually, traveling is my dream. I believe in the power of traveling. It is always an eye-opener. It frees you from prejudices and all the anti-social obstacles. So, I hope I could travel around the world, soon. However, I travel to many weird and exciting places in my own head.

Peter: I can see your great affinity with two great writers, what do you have to say about Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou.

Amirah: For me, Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou are my favourite poets of all time. I love how both of them write bravely, and without fear. Dickinson is a great woman, a great feminist. She succeeded in discovering where the beauty of the English language hides? She worshipped the writing process more than anything else. And here is her greatness. Maya Angelou is a warrior, a brave one. She isn’t just a writer who amuses us to write and create, she teaches us how to fight through writing. How writing could be a weapon for battle. And how its power would make a great victory. We need more Dickinsons now, we need more Angelous in our world. I believe that writers who look like Angelou and Dickinson drive our body and soul to be free, forever.

PeterWhat is your opinion on how a good poem should look like?

Amirah: I think good poem should touch the heart in our hearts, it should be soft and tough. It should be true and imaginative. It should move these mountains that stand on our shoulders. It should sing the truth. It should discover what is behind the scenes. The good poem should blow our minds. Should drive us to be who we are and why we are here.

Peter: Let’s talk about your poem. I read “For Those Who Don’t Know Chocolate” no doubts, the poem is a painting of people who live in the harsh corners of life. And SURVIVAL or SURVIVING tend to be a recurring theme. In your own view, give me a panoramic image of surviving in this world.

Amirah: I believe that surviving in this world requires standing together against the issues that may destroy our world. These issues include racism, poverty, inequality, hate, starvation, intolerance, disempowerment of women and more. If we search for solutions to these issues seriously, we could make a difference in the world. If we support each other without conditions, we could survive. If we believe, truly, in the power of the art, we will make it, we will definitely survive. We need more mercy, more compassion, more art, more movies, more music. We need more knowledge to know how to bring love to our lives instead of bringing hate.

PeterGrowing up as a child in this world is delicate because of life’s uncertainties. Which of your childhood memory do you cherish so much and how has it influenced your art.

Amirah: I have many childhood memories that I cherish so much. But the best memories are those which I spent in Yemen. Although, I live now in my homeland Egypt, but I have spent my whole childhood in Yemen. I still remember how much I cherished nature there and how it inspired me as a child to explore more secrets. I have learned to listen to the nature’s whispers. The memories of living in the countryside. And how its nature is so different and amazing. I love to remember the cows and the green fields and the incredible mountains. I think that the nature of Yemen had influenced me to imagine and create art works.

Peter: I strongly believe that music is one important aspect of life and living. A good song with powerful lyrics and melody has the capacity to connect your soul and happiness together. What happens to you when you listen to a song or write one.

Amirah: For me listening to songs is a daily habit. I really can’t imagine my life without music. It’s a part of me. I carry melodies in my heart, when I feel depressed or sad, it comes to me, hovering like a bird. We need more music to hear the wisdom of being alive. We need more lyrics. We need more power from music to get through the darkness and depression that covers our modern world. I put the lyrics on like rings hanging in my ears. I write songs and keep them waiting for a chance to turn them into real songs. Poetry and music do not separate from each other.

Peter: Thanks for the time.

Amirah:  Thank you