About poetry + sneak peaks at new poems
A look inside my writing process & how Dearborn has affected me
I have less than a week left of my residency! It’s flown by, and I’m not ready for it to end — having extra time to write, as well as access to excellent research, has been invaluable to my process as I develop Beqaa Valley Violet.
Poetry has always been about catharsis for me. It was an outlet, and still is, for me to express complicated emotions, thoughts, and experiences. But now I’m also seeing the pleasure of craft; of using poetry to craft a larger narrative.
I’m digging deep into the bones of this story. I’m experimenting with different speakers and settings. I’m exploring the themes that have always interested me, yes, but this time, I’m incorporating more nuance into my work, brought forth by my time in Dearborn researching Lebanese flowers, the ins-and-outs of Arab-American history, and lots of uninterrupted writing time.
I’ve also been thinking about environmental justice and what our role is in all of it as we navigate climate change. I don’t have a clear answer yet, even for myself, but I do encourage you to get involved on a local level when it comes to issues of environment. Vote and communicate with your elected officials — if they’re receptive to listening to you — and join climate advocacy and environmental justice groups in your community. This is something I plan on doing more once I’m back in Tulsa, OK.
As I’ve been here, I’ve had the chance to be immersed in Arab-American culture and it’s been wonderful. Conversations with staff members about our experiences being Arab-American have been so cathartic. Everyone has their own story and relationship with their identity as Arab-Americans and people living in this country.
I always felt like I needed to fit in somewhere within mainstream expectations of what it means to be Arab or American, but doing this residency has showed me you can fit in without subscribing to a single mold or way of being. To some sense, I already knew that, but now, I believe it.
I could have worked on this project without being in Dearborn, but being here has had an invaluable effect on my personal and creative growth. It’s given me a lot of energy to dive into this new project, and I’ve had the chance to learn so much from the AANM staff, exploring Dearborn/Detroit, and running a few workshops at the museum. Although my time in Dearborn is nearing it’s end, I know that Beqaa Valley Violet isn’t.
sneak peaks! at poems!
I thought I’d share a couple of the poems I’ve been working on (something I never, ever do, so consider yourself lucky [please read that knowing I have a dose of sarcasm in my voice. Anyways.] ). They are definitely still a work-in-progress, but are representative of the direction in which my project is going. The first one is a response to two lines I wrote over the summer that inspired this entire project: beqaa valley violet/you burned in the back of my eyes.
beqaa valley violet You were behind my irises, a violet surprise. With no one around to see I plucked your sun softened petals, all my vitreous fluid oozing around your green leaves, seemingly delicate right in front of me, for everyone to see.
Surprisingly, the Lebanese Violet was not the only flower that took hold of me. The Iris Sofarana, or Iris of Sawfar, also has become the subject of several poems. Here’s the first stanza.
Ode to the Iris that grows in Anjar Maybe I’m an imposter, a grifter scattered somewhere impossibly found after being thought to be lost.
If you like how these are shaping up, then make sure to come to AANM’s Open Mic night THIS Friday, where I will be hosting and reading the other poems I’ve been working on! And even if you don’t like it, still come! You may fancy someone else’s work, or read something of your own. Sign up if you want to read. Find more details here.
P.S. I’ve been inspired by V.E. Schwab’s latest newsletter, where she mentioned that having a specific set of songs you listen to before working on a creative project can help you get in the mindset to work on it. For Beqaa Valley Violet, I’ve been playing Narrative by Felukah non-stop (shout out to Zaza for introducing me to this artist!).
One more thing
There’s a lot going on in the world, and dozens of causes to support and be invested in. The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have been devastating, with the situation only worsening after another earthquake a few days ago. Please donate if you can. This article has a list of legitimate organizations to contribute to, and tips on how to avoid scams.
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