Meet The Poets: Jameela Nishat

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SheThePeople.TV is partnering with the Poets Translating Poets Festival to be held this weekend. 50 poets have participated in a two-year-long project which aimed to provide a forum to contemporary poets from India and other South Asian countries to translate poetry in German and vice-versa.  The festival in Mumbai will comprise poetry readings, discussions, photo exhibitions and exciting performances, including jazz poetry performances, and readings in unexpected parts of the city!

Also Read: Meet the Poets: Sylvia Geist

We spoke to feminist Urdu poet Jameela Nishat about her journey and her inspiration. Nishat was born in Hyderabad, and her father, Syed Bin Mohammad, was a portrait artist and a close friend of M.F. Hussain. She is the founder of the Shaheen Collective, a woman’s organisation which works to end domestic and social violence against women

Poets Translate Poets

 1. How did you start writing poetry? What to you is the purpose of writing poetry?
I started writing poetry when I was twelve. As I was first writing a friendly letter, it changed to a poem. I write what I feel. I try to pen down my dreams and they turn out to be poems. I feel the pain of other women and girls as mine. I believe in changing the society through creativity.

 2. Are there any themes which have attracted you in your writing over the years?
A lot happened as I continued writing. I wrote many poems on sexuality when I was young. As my journey continued, I started writing about social issues like communal harmony and gender justice. I was very subjective in the beginning and as I travelled I became more objective. Now there is very thin line between subjectivity and objectivity.

I try to pen down my dreams and they turn out to be poems. I feel the pain of other women and girls as mine.

 3. What led you to start the Shaheen Collective and how much does your work as an activist influence your writing?
Shaheen Collective is an extension of my poetry. I dream of a peaceful society where women are free to do what they want to do and live a violence free life.

Read Jameela Nishat’s poem in Urdu here:

کرچیوں پر چل کر

کرچیوں پر چل کر

خیمہ تک اپنے پہنچی

کاغذ نے با ہیں پھیلائی

پلکوں نے ٹپکایا لہو

الفاظ جنم لینے لگے

Jameela Nishat

Poem Reproduced Courtesy Poets Translating Poets. You can hear and read more of her poetry here

 4. What is the most difficult part of writing a poem?
I really don’t know the difficult part. For me a poem flows and I just put it on paper. I have never worked on any poem as a poet is normally supposed to do.

Also Read: Performance poetry, a feminist with words: Meet Melizarani T Selva

5. How do you feel when your poetry is translated? Does something get lost in translation?
I feel happy to communicate my feelings with every human being and translation helps me in doing that. Today I am here because of translations. The poets of my language never appreciated my poems. First when I wanted my poems to be published, the calligrapher refused to do the calligraphy of my poems because the poems were not of good taste according to him.

6. Finally which poets do you admire and have inspired you?
There are many poets who inspired. But Emily Dickinson lived in me for years. Sylvia Plath is also my favourite. Fahmida Riyaz and Kishwar Nahid are the Pakistani Urdu poets whom I love.

The Poets Translating Poets festival is open to all — For a full schedule of events log on here

Read More Stories by Tara Khandelwal