Fatimah Asghar – VIDA Voices & Views Interview (Part I)

About This Episode: This episode of VIDA Voices and Views, produced by Lauren Berman and audio-produced by R. J. Jeffreys, is the first of a two-part interview. Melissa Studdard speaks with poet and filmmaker, Fatimah Asghar, who reads from “Pluto Shits on the Universe” and talks about topics ranging from lyrical vulgarity to how to create safe spaces for addressing trauma in the classroom.

About Fatimah Asghar: Nationally touring poet, writer, educator, and performer Fatimah Asghar is the author of the chapbook After from Yes Yes Books and the poetry collection, If They Come for Us, forthcoming from One World/ Random House. She is also the writer and co-creator of Brown Girls, a web series that highlights friendships between women of color. Her work has appeared in many journals, including POETRY Magazine, BuzzFeed Reader, and the Academy of American Poets. As well, her work has been featured on PBS, NPR, Time, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, and other news outlets. In 2011 she created a spoken word poetry group in Bosnia and Herzegovina called REFLEKS while on a Fulbright to study theater in post-genocidal countries. In 2017 she was the recipient of a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and was on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. She is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and a Kundiman Fellow.

To learn more about Fatimah Asghar, please visit: https://www.fatimahasghar.com

Fatimah Asghar Quotes from This Episode of VIDA Voices & Views

“If you’re advocating against something, then you are also advocating for the creation of a new world.”

“To me poetry is simultaneously the most important thing in the world and the least important thing.”

“I would love to see a decentering of whiteness as a norm and the inclusion of multiple ideas of what it means to be human.”

“Poetry can make you feel less alone and less lonely in a world, especially in a world where representation is really skewed and a lot of people are not being represented fully to the extent that they should be.”

“When I graduated from college, there was a visiting artist who came to speak to us and something he said was ‘Circles rise together.’ You don’t need to try to find friends that are well connected because if you actually put all of your energy into people’s talent who you love and respect who are your peers, and you do that for each other, then your circle will come up and be a formidable thing together but what it requires is unity and love and in some ways a real diligence for that.”

“We’re trained to not look at the drone strikes in Pakistan as similar to police brutality in the United States, but they are, and they’re born of the same coin.”

“I love using language that is actually the way I speak and the way that people around me speak, and it does not need to be a high lyric, and that doesn’t mean they’re not lyrical. It means we’re in this moment when a lot of people are experimenting with what the lyric can be, and how frank the lyric can be too, and how vulgar, and I think a lot of my work is kind of toeing the line is this kind of lyrical vulgarity.”

“The idea of a universal poem is kind of destructive because it implies a universal existence, but it also implies you are only allowed to be read by certain people.”

“There are ways to examine people’s humanity and to elegize and to mourn for people without the shock value of recreating a murder, and to think: Would you read that poem in front of that person’s mom? Would you read that poem in front of that person’s sister? Would you re-inscribe that trauma onto the people who have witnessed it firsthand or have been affected by it?”

About VIDA Voices & Views

VIDA Voices & Views is a video and audio interview program designed to call attention to a plurality of voices by interviewing writers, editors, publishers, series curators, anthologists, awards committee members, and other dedicated members of the literary community about their own work, vision, and concerns, as well as topics at the forefront of literary activism. The program seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the literary landscape and the issues facing artists of all genders, as well as to foster nuanced conversation about gender parity, race, disability, LGBTQ, economic, and other crucial issues impacting writers today.

VIDA Voices & Views interviews feature Rita Dove, Gregory Pardlo, Don Share, Patricia Smith, Fatimah Asghar, and Cheryl Strayed. Our next interview will spotlight award-winning poet and musician Joy Harjo. Listen anytime via either the VIDA website or the podcast website:

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