By Aminah Sheikh
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I just finished my new Arabic poetry collection Adrenaline. As I say, I try to survive, like Shahrazad in One Thousand and One Nights, who keeps telling the king stories to not get killed.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
I don’t know really, but I can feel it have a strong effect on people.
Who are your favorite authors?
From the thinkers: Edward Said.
From the short story writer: the Iraqi Hassan Blasim.
In poetry: Amjad Nasser, Ghassan Zaqtan, Saadi Yousef and Salah Faik.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
My poem “Schizophrenia”, which I wrote after Assad’s chemical attack on Syrian civilians. I got the chance to stay for two weeks in the city of Ypres, invited by “deBuren” and “citybooks”. The visit coincided with the centenary of the first chemical attack in history, which occurred in Flanders Fields during the First World War. I remember that I visited most of the 170 cemeteries that surround the city of Ypres and hold the bodies of 600,000 soldiers that were killed there. I was listening to The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate which is held every evening at Menin Gate for the past 89 years, and after that I wrote Schizophrenia, moving between Ypres (the past), Damascus (the present), Stockholm (the peace that I enjoy) and Palestine (the dream).