by ASJAD NAZIR
Poets have captured moments in time, made a difference and created art through the beauty of words for centuries. Today a new generation of talents is putting a contemporary edge on the timeless literature form and among those leading the way is rising star Shareefa Energy.
Her newly released debut book Galaxy Walk will enable more people to find out about one of the best-kept secrets on the British literary landscape. She covers a range of topics in a neatly crafted book aimed at all ages and cultures, which beautifully uses the power of words to make an impact.
Eastern Eye caught up with Shareefa Energy to talk about her poetic journey, new book and future hopes.
What connected you to the power of words?
I spent most of my childhood in the library, speeding through novels, appreciating worlds I was able to visit through a paperback. I began to access storytelling by listening to hip-hop and started writing lyrics at 13. I’ve been writing ever since and found release through my pen. The in-depth perspective shift words were able to have on my journey, impacted me through its strength.
How much has being able to successfully perform poetry live helped?
Performing poetry breathes life into my words. I can understand how best an audience will absorb key elements of the message within a piece, to give them the insight to experience the vibe and emotion the piece was written from. I’m aware of what grips people. It encourages me with how to pull the audience deeper into a narrative and what to be mindful of when writing and editing.
Tell us about your new book?
Galaxy Walk is my debut collection, poetry written from 2013 till now. It’s a journey of nostalgia, childhood, womanhood, politics, injustice and highlights experiences of living in the diaspora. There is something in it for everyone.
What has been the biggest challenge of writing the book?
Selecting poems and editing! Being ruthless with what to remove from a compilation of old and new poems to ensure readers are kept engaged and there not being too much repetition was very important. Editing my collection was a challenge but one that I embraced, as editing with Anthony Anaxagorou and Afshan D’souza Lodhi made me a better writer.
What inspired the title?
Galaxy Walk is the name of a walkway in Highfields in Leicester, behind the library, where I grew up. I use to take a shortcut to my grandma’s house through there. All the street names nearby refer to planets and the Milky Way. The name of this walkway blew my mind as a child. I wanted to pay homage to my roots and honour the wonder of my inner child.
How much of the poetry is based on your personal experiences?
My collection is personal. It’s almost autobiographical, including poetry, analysis of politics and bringing injustice to light in an easier way to digest its complexities. I write from my heart on what I’ve seen, experienced or been exposed to.
Is there any one poem in the book that is closest to your heart?
All are very close to my heart as they all express different parts of me. The heart has the capacity to love many aspects so it’s difficult to pinpoint a favourite. I like the imagery in Nat Mur.
Who are you hoping connects with the book?
Everyone! I want people to access new perspectives they may not necessarily engage with day to day.
Who is your writing hero?
I love Arundhati Roy, as she does not restrict methods of conveying a message. I appreciate her writing style and the medium she uses.
What can we expect next from you?
I want to write another collection now that I have experience with the publishing process and want to stay in the rhythm of publishing. I want to write poetry for children and possibly even start writing a novel. We will see where the energy takes me as I also have interests in theatre and film.
Today, where do you draw your creative inspirations from?
My inspirations draw from hip-hop, politics, nature, books, the journey of other poets and theatre.
What is the place of poetry in the modern age of technology and social media?
Poetry is more accessible and no longer considered elitist. Different mediums support a poem’s essence to hit home better through visuals, audio and film. However, I don’t feel poetry should be watered down or the quality bar should be set low. Poetry should encourage our imaginations to open. We are in a sound bite poetry culture era since Instagram, which can become dangerous by not demanding readers minds to do more work, or poets to not value the importance of editing their writing before putting them out for likes.
Why do you love poetry?
Poetry is a platform for my voice and allows me to express in a society which usually attempts to take the microphone away from me. It gives me the space to hold my head high and my mind to be valued, regardless of disgruntled expectations.
Why should we pick up the book?
Galaxy Walk is relatable, as it is insightful; it is humorous, as it is serious. It is empowering and very honest. It provides lessons on how there is no shame in human experiences. It is for lovers of stories, prose and poetry. Galaxy Walk is an offering of creative inspiration.
www.shareefaenergy.com and Twitter & Instagram: @ShareefaEnergy