Poet Seher Hashmi

 

It was her mother's intense love for poetry that first motivated Seher to start writing. Barriers, inequality and divisions sorting out human beings into predefined boxes are themes she consistently explores in her work. She believes that words, if used appropriately, truthfully and thoughtfully, can revolutionize this world.

 

 

Thanks for your time Seher, and for answering a few questions. Where are you originally from?

 

I moved to Bahrain a few years ago and now live here with my family, but originally I am from Punjab, Pakistan; the land of Sufi poets of spoken-word-poetry.

 

Did you grow up with words and poetry?

 

Yes, I belong to a family of poets and writers; my grandfather is a renowned Urdu poet of humour, and my mother has recently published her first book of Urdu poetry on feminism. My mother is very well read; she can recite by heart a large number of entire anthologies by progressive Pakistani and Indian poets. My mother married in her early teens so she couldn't pursue a career as a professional poet, instead she channelled her love of words into reading, reciting and writing, and instilling her love for poetry into her offspring. It was her intense love for poetry and her mini collection of books which worked as magnet for me. I am an introvert so words came naturally to me and I fell for reading and writing early on.

 

Dreams

By Seher Hashmi

 

When I was one tiny whiny girl
Baba bought me bubble machine
'Now off you go
And have as many as you wish'
'OH REALLY!'could hardly believe.
I pranced about,overjoyed
Oozing out soggy beauties
Oval, round,elongated beings
Soaring up  in the air
Against glaring gravity
Like they ever cared!
Sailing on breezy chest
Sitting indulgent on wind's palm
Half circle or complete
Sun rays bent down to highlight
Peacock hues in gliding domes
Marching  out of plastic muzzle
Heading fast ,up
high to beat each other
I giggled jiggled,swirled all around
to puff out
As many as tender pout allowed
Floral hem chased them like crazy
As I watched them
Drifting smooth like celebrities
Away,farther,out of my reach
Doing a goopy dance
Flaccid next moment
Swiveling  awkwardly, like dead bodies
And before I winked  again
Pop they went and whooshed!

 

So your mother was a real influence?

 

Yes, and in secondary school, unwittingly I came upon my mother's personal diary  - apologies Ammi - in which she had written about her adolescent years. It read almost like a mini saga of feminism; her honest and simple descriptions of social restrictions upon girls, as well as other growing-up issues, touched my teen heart so much that I started keeping my own secret journal.

 

I Exist

By Seher Hashmi

 

Somewhere hidden
Out of sight
Wrapped tight
Behind folds and folds
Of how I should be
I exist
Some universe out in space
Away from continents
Of color and faith
Perhaps
Yet undiscovered
I exist
Some Neverland
Of will, pride and pleasure
Where ocean falls into
Streams
Where lions mewl
Cry bitterly
I exist
Some spot may be hole
Dug deep
wilted grass overgrown
Gagging for life
Like a voodoo doll
Punished for sins
Not mine
I exist
Some island sneaked
Up on land and sea
Away from Porsche's drive
Off villas sublime
Parties, drinks, pleasantries
Chanels and  Guccies  
I exist
Some niche, on outskirts
Of humanity
Demarcated fields
Of brown,black and white
Banished, forlorn
In purgatory
I exist
Some levels below lines
Like an unstressed syllable
A letter remains silent
Of a misspelled word
I exist
Somehow wriggling out
Of noose
Scavenging stares
Grizzly gropes
I exist
Some constellation, hung unaware,
A white dwarf star
Core exhausted
Luminance out
Aching to reincarnate
I exist

 

How did things then develop for you as a writer?

 

I grew up where ghazals (ghazal can refer to poetry and the way it is sung or rendered), Kafis (Kafi is a prominent genre of Punjabi literature and is very rich in form and content), Tappays (Tappa is a form of Indian semi-classical vocal music), satirical limericks, anthems, politically charged Punjabi rap ring in the air, serving as the only cathartic devices available to a common man oppressed by power cartels, so it didn't come as a surprise when I started penning my own poems. I believe that words, if used appropriately, truthfully and thoughtfully can revolutionize this world. Barriers, inequality and divisions sorting out human beings into predefined boxes like inanimate objects and them turning blind to the diversified nature of human personality are the themes I burn with, consequently exhume and explore in my poems.

 

Xenophobia

By Seher Hashmi

 

I did not grow up hating others
Their attire or lingo or color
Paki Shalwar with
Worldwide flare
Coconut-oil slicked
Jet black wavy hair
Or culture exotic,unfamiliar
Scorn wasn't the spread
Ammi slathered
Aversion didn't light up at
Family weddings or
Eid prayers
Hubris wasn't knitted
Into sweaters  I wore
Wasn't groomed to loath
What others hold so dear
Against trembling chests like
A prayer unanswered
 A torn bit of scripture  
Quranic verses
Ragtag memories
Relics of old records
chords of folk songs
Tidbits of folk lores
Keepsakes of departed
So When you come barging
Shoving hate in my face
Down my throat
Up my neck
Clogging my ears
Pricking  my tear duct
Shooting straight at my heart
Piercing through my soul
Drilling down into my brains
I am left with nothing
But
To yell out
Unusually loud n clear
Hatred
Like a boomerang, flips
Rolls,cartwheels, somersaults
Ricocheting
Back to the flinger
With a supersonic whiz!

 

What is your writing process?

 

My  process of writing is pretty simple. Usually it kicks off with an image, a used plastic bag or swirls of tea steam, a random line from a blog or a recent read, an object, or any situation which upsets me, enthrals me or astonishes me. This then gets metamorphosed into a poem, trying my utmost to get it off my chest as soon as possible and into black and white before the mood or whim fades away. Sometimes an apparently stray line pops up out of nowhere, stemming from something I have been brooding over. I would then I jot it down right away, and later on pry its origin, connections and progression into a full fledge piece.

 

Musings of a Brown Girl on Tinder

By Seher Hashmi

 

I am not a satin finish curtain
With sultry ruffles bowing down
to touch
Floor's feet
Neither a Venetian  blind
With twist-ajar-and-shut
Device
Neither am I cloth unfurled,
Spread out with a resounding
Thud and uppity grin
Unraveling folds upon folds
As you caress along fluffy creases
Eyes-wide-shut
Sniff  hard for some stale bruises
To watch out for a dated stain
Peering top to toe
Before securing a thrifty bargain
I am love's labour
Woven into every single weft,
And standing uptight, lost
In every warp
Is my crushed, oft-maligned will.
If you want me
Go learn to spin the wheel
Without pricking your
Macho fingers bleeding
Über-imposed ego.

 

Who are your influences?

 

I am influenced by both the literary and non literary, and even icons of pop culture such as Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Brenda Shaughnessy and Sia Furler, all have taught me how to find new associations in apparently disconnected images and ideas.

 

I would like to ally my spoken-words-poetry to The Beat Generation (The Beat Generation were a group of '40s and '50s writers interested in changing consciousness and defying conventional writing). Allen Ginsberg and John Kerouac. Saul Williams, Suli Breaks and Kate Tempest’s recitals have sparked me to perform my own poems. The South Asian novelists Arundhati Roy, Kamila Shamsie and Mohsin Hamid have helped me discover and explore the socio-political dimensions of what we write and why we write.  
 
Has your work been published?
 
Yes, my poems have appeared in many digital spaces including The Blue Minaret, The Muslim World Today and in Eros and The Elements; two Collections of Poetry and Prose anthologies. Throughout 2018, I have been performing at different poetry gigs and open mics and am currently working on how to publish my first book of poetry.

 

In Memory of Sylvia Plath
By Seher Hashmi

 

Shall I mourn or relish
Birth of a
Fierce firefly
Choking for air
In a rigid
Glass jar?
Shall I count candles or
Keep a placid vigil
In dark?
As I see her squirming
Fluttering to hit
Solid tin lid
Only to be
Burnt out, at last!
Or shall I take up the dare
And shatter this prism
Not letting her find
Her own rhythm ?
What if she,fragile as
hope in utter despair,
A tremulous sun-speck
Peeking through
Dense dark foliage,
Dies of sudden blast
Staining my fingers
With her undying spark
Pent up angst, jitters
Maternal guilt
Bleeding unwashable spots?
Do I dare carry the blame?
Can I bear living with stain?

 

And what are your goals and plans for the future?

 

To attend more poetry slams and start my own digital space in collaboration with friends is my resolution for 2019. I aspire to both acquire and then master the art of delivering or performing poems. Lastly, a Masters degree in Creative Writing perches atop the bucket list. 

 

Seher Hashmi

E: seherhashmi34@yahoo.com
Facebook: @SeherHashmi
Instagram:@midnitemusings
Blog: www.charmedlassblog.wordpress.com

 

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