Sascha A Akhtar has been widely translated into Armenian, Portuguese, Galician, Russian, Dutch & Polish. She has performed at festivals such as the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam and Southbank Centre’s Meltdown Festival London curated by Yoko Ono. Her most recent poetry collection is 199 Japanese Names for Japanese Trees. She also works as a freelance editor and healer using therapeutic meditation practices at Be Meditation. Her latest work, ‘Only Dying Sparkles’, appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Poetry Wales in the form of a deck of tarot-like cards. Next year, she will teach a workshop at The Poetry School, ‘Technicians of The Sacred: The Poem As A Magical Event’, and publish a book of translations as the Belles-Lettres of Hijjab Imtiaz on Oxford University Press, India.
What makes you write poetry despite the overwhelming majority of people’s crushing indifference towards it?
Well, one reason is, I actually cannot not write poetry, so there’s that. I suppose it has been a pathway for healing for me since I was very young. So whether or not anyone’s reading it, I’m writing it!! The indifference makes no difference to my practice. #PathologicalPoet 😊 😊 😊
WH Auden wrote that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’ – how do you know that this isn’t true?
WH Auden must have been a very depressed poet if that’s what he believed! It is important though to put that in the right context. In his time, in his generation as a man, perhaps there were expectations of him that he did not fulfill and indeed poetry “made nothing happen,” like food, shelter etc (and it still doesn’t) It all depends on what you feel a “happening” is. Any action we take in this world with intention can affect change. Words are more powerful than most things; the most powerful of all. In that way, according to the laws of manifestation and even if you look back at the usage of words throughout human history, poetry has always been believed to make everything happen!! It was only when we started wanting to be “civilised,” and “enlightened,” that we lost the sense of our own individual power and how we can wield it.
Once when I sneezed, a piece of sweetcorn came out of my nose – can you tell me something interesting about you?
I name animals as soon as I meet them. In particular, if it is a goat or a duck. They may well be my spirit animals with the kinship I feel. 😊 😊 😊 So I named a goat Seymour and named two ducks that then became my pets actually Sophocoles and Socrates. The fact they are all “S” names is a coincidence.
Sherman the Goat in rural Northern Pakistan, the wild country where the mountain goat rules!
If poetry was a metaphor, what metaphor would it be?
The reading of it, the writing of it, the performance of it or witnessing a reading/performance? The reading of it: Can be like digging a ditch or meditating, depending on the poem. The writing of it: Digging a ditch or meditating, having open heart surgery, performing an alchemical act. The performance of it: Having open-heart surgery, being disembowelled, dying, creating a magical, healing space. Witnessing a performance: Digging a ditch & getting into it, undergoing an alchemical act, dying, soaring, healing.
What is your favourite room?
In my home? My daughter’s room. I feel safe, relaxed and happy there! 😊
What is the worst poem you have ever written?
Possibly the first poem I ever wrote when I was 7, directly lifted from Tyger, Tyger and beginning with “Oh Lord I thank thee”? (Colonial education did strange things to us in the countries where we were taught ONLY dead white men in English poetry)
Which poems or poets are currently inspiring you?
Sylvia Legris, a secret book of poetry I just discovered as the only work of a female occultist and hunted down via the Smithsonian Archive, which I will be sharing with students in my Poetry School workshop Technicians of The Sacred: The Poem As A Magical Event, the lyrics of most Delta Blues musicians, especially Vera Hall, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith. Paul Celan.
What is the most annoying moment you have ever experienced at a poetry event?
Annoying in what way? I curated a poetry event with Anthony Joseph for about four years La Langoustine Est Morte, at the Poetry Cafe so there is a whole slew of moments that could be rated from Mildly Annoying to Moderate Irritation to Total Freak-Out!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing poetry?
Do it. If you sense that you are stopping yourself, before you even begin use the tools of introspection and circumvent that. I find ritualising the act can help. Make the intention, I’m going to allow myself to write. Think about if you like pencils or pens. Go to a stationery store that makes you happy. Hang out with the pencils, the pens until something calls to you. Do the same with a notebook. What will lend itself more easily to you getting it out at any moment? In the grocery store. Getting your morning coffee before your “day job”? Look at ALL the sizes. I used to always have small ones, which worked for me, blank pages, but then I found (after many years, mind) the space was restricting my poetry-thoughts. Then I had medium-sized ones, which helped the “flow,” better, but were hard to carry around, so then I had a small one for when I was out, and medium ones at home (I really enjoyed the size & format as the space for my words) and now I have really big ones with lines. Preferably hard-bound. Those suit me the best. I very rarely write straight into the computer.
What is the point?
The point is the point. Find it.