World Poetry Day is celebrated across the globe on 21 March, and this year, UNM’s very own poet, Dr Sheena Baharudin, Assistant Professor of Literature in the School of English as well as alumna (PhD in English, 2021), talks about her own love for poetry.
A well-known name in the contemporary literature circles of Malaysia, her journey in writing began during her undergraduate years studying English. However, poetic inspiration surrounded her all her life, from nursery rhymes and holy scriptures as a child, to hip hop and classic rock songs in her adolescence.
Making the decision to share her work was tough, however, as an introvert, stepping into the world of spoken word poetry and performance was also an empowering decision, one that helped her develop her sense of agency as well as brought her to a community of like-minded individuals.
What drew Dr Sheena into poetry as opposed to other forms of writing was its minute attention to details, from words to their sound properties.
“I am of the belief that there is a strong mystical quality to poetry that resonates strongly with me,” she says.
Poetry has taught her much about herself and her place in this world. In addition, it has opened her up to new people, places, experiences and ways to communicate with others.
This is what she has to say to those who want to know how to start writing poetry:
“Find a word or a line that catches your attention or begs for a response. It can be a verse from a song, or a line from a movie. Anything. In any language. Then really look at it and say it out loud repeatedly. Taste it. Explore its layered meanings. Trace its etymology. Embody it. Now do it the other way around. If you are a word or a verse, what would it be? Let's see where that takes you.”
Dr Sheena also had some words of advice to all the emerging writers:
“Firstly, it is important to address the whys. Why are you writing? Why should anyone read your work? Why does it matter? Finding the answers to this is part of the process, one that pushes you to find meaning in spending all those precious hours working on your craft.
“Secondly, writing is equally a solitary act as it is a communal one. There is no writer without its readers. To write with the intention of connecting, at least to me, is a good place to start.”
Poetry has always been an integral part of human history, having preserved our stories and lived experiences from millennia past. Having Dr Sheena with us today served as a reminder that even in the fast-paced world we live in today, we are all deeply connected to art. Happy World Poetry Day everyone!
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Posted on 19th March 2021