What is your writing routine, do you have a specific time or place to write?
Inspiration comes from all around me. It could be an incident, a random thought, a memory, a deep reflection. I try to write them right away but sometimes I need quiet and solitude for words to flow and that often happens in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning.
You are co-founder of the NWN poetry community in Sudan, tell us about that role.
I am one of six founding members of Nas With Notepads which is a non-profit poetry community in Sudan. It was founded in 2011 out of love for spoken word and poetry and the need to provide a safe platform for poets to showcase their work. Monthly performance events are organised as well as writing workshops, and poets are encouraged to submit their pieces to be published on the NWN website. With the current pandemic, the events are broadcasted on Instagram Live (@naswithnotepads).
Which Sudanese poet/novelist/essayist, in your opinion, deserves wider recognition?
The recent revolution that ousted the previous president of Sudan, has played a role in the surfacing and re-surfacing of many artists, including poets. I cannot narrow down one poet/novelist or essayist but I believe poetry is a respected part of the arts and every writer deserves a platform to express, not merely for recognition, but to express the thoughts and feelings of many.
What is the biggest challenge to your writing life?
I’m currently suffering from a bit of writer’s block but I hope to get over this mild case soon to continue writing my second book.
Poet Natalie Diaz calls it tension, rather than creativity. How do you hold on to tension in your work?
I value the importance of taking a break when your pages are blank – be it by walking or sitting by the Nile. Pressuring yourself into writing may not bring out ingenuity and artistry.
What is one thing you would like to see change about the writing community or publishing industry?
I avoid constraining myself to a writing structure or to have a studied reason behind why I write a particular way simply because I don’t write a certain way. It feels like being trapped in a doorless, suffocating box. I think writing communities/publishing industries should generally be more embracing of that.
What poets or authors influence you? And what are you currently reading?
Langston Hughes, Rumi, E.E. Cummings.
I am currently re-reading the chapbook box set called “8 New-Generation African Poets”, by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani.
Your book Tidal Waves was written in memory of your father, did you write the poems specifically for the collection or were they poems that you had written prior to conceiving the idea of the book.
Most of the poems from Tidal Waves were written without the intention of publishing a book. They were initially random notes for me to keep in a place where I can revisit my father. They gradually evolved into poems of healing and accepting the harsh reality of loss.
Writing about grief is never easy. What was the most challenging thing about assembling this collection?
The most challenging part about it was having to relive the irreplaceable moments of a dear person who you can no longer be wrapped by for warmth. There were many times during this process where I had to step away from writing to breathe, to breakdown, to cry. I think what eventually helped me through was the combination of having support from my friends and family and also remembering that he left a legacy behind – a legacy of altruism, kindness, purity and living life to the fullest.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received? And from whom?
The best piece of writing advice I’ve received so far was from K.Eltinaé. He is a fellow Sudanese poet who is a dear friend that I hold in high regard. He said: create a folder, keep any rejections you receive in them and be brave to re-send your work to them again at a different time, and if not, don’t dwell on rejections.