A poetess in the making

By Nida Mohsin
Tue, 04, 19

Annum Salman left the PR world in Pakistan to travel to England in 2017 for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Surrey.....

woman @ work

‘Sense Me’ is a debut poetry book by Annum Salman who is a spoken word poet from Pakistan, currently residing in the UK. Read more about her...

Annum Salman left the PR world in Pakistan to travel to England in 2017 for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Surrey. She writes about family, love, her experiences as a woman and a minority. As a spoken word poet she has had successful performances at the ‘1000 Monkeys’, ‘Write Out Loud’, ‘Surrey’s New Writers Festival’ and feature shows at ‘Dorking is Talking’, and ‘That’s What She Said in Shoreditch’. She has also performed in Malaysia as well as in Karachi and Lahore.

Her debut poetry book ‘Sense Me’ is about feeling love, loss, happiness, anxiety, healing and fear through self, family and loved ones. In this book she shares her experiences being a woman, a daughter and a foreigner undergoing mental health issues, sexism and racism. It allows the reader to make a journey into the unknown to explore their own senses and emotions to grasp the familiarities and unfamiliarities of the world around. In an exclusive interview with You! Annum Salman talks about her book and the issues she is interested in...

You! What motivated you to come up with your debut poetry book?

Annum Salman: I have been writing since I was nine years old. I had completed an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Surrey in the UK in 2018, and had just submitted a few chapters of a novel I was writing. However, I couldn’t find the time to complete that, and I really wanted to release some work in the year of 2018. A friend of mine gifted me Noor Unnahar’s poetry book ‘Yesterday I Was the Moon’ and it made me think why I haven’t written my poetry book yet. That’s what made me get up and start acting on a new goal.

You! Who was your inspiration for writing ‘Sense Me’?

AS: My own experiences combined with the experiences of those around me - heart breaks, love, anxiety etc.

You! What’s the basic idea of ‘Sense Me’?

AS: It includes four major themes; sexism, mental health, love, race and culture.

You! How long did it take to finish your first book?

AS: The poems in the book were written over a span of a year and a half. I wrote some new stuff, edited a lot and the entire compilation with the publishing process took three months. There are illustrations in the book by artist Aaiza Alam.

You: Why did you choose to write poetry and not prose?

AS: Poetry comes naturally to me. It’s short, shareable on social media and more abstract. Let’s say, I needed to introduce myself to the world as a writer, and I chose the easier way first. I write prose and want to publish it, but writing a novel is harder and takes longer. I could write poetry every day under a span of five minutes in any spare time I had - writing prose is more exhausting and needs more discipline and time, which I did not have.

You! How have the readers received your work so far?

AS: So far, people have loved it. I’ve received various compliments about my writing style - being simple and relatable. People have appreciated the issues I have discussed. ‘Sense Me’ has been called real, and that’s all I ever wanted it to be.

You! What is your favourite subject which is close to your heart?

AS: Mental health is a subject extremely close to me. Through my poems, I wish more people can understand mental illnesses.

You! What are your five favourite books?

AS: 1. ‘Harry Potter’ (The entire series). J.K Rowling made me want to become a writer.

2. ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. Taught me about life!

3. ‘If You Could See Me Now’ by Cecelia Ahern.

4. ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’.

5. ‘Norwegian Wood’.

You! Your favourite poets:

AS: My favourite poets are Sarah Kay, Shane Koyczan and Emily Dickinson.

You! What did you like to read when you were a little girl?

AS: I always loved fiction. From reading Full House and the Mary-kate Ashley adventure books to reading Jaqueline Wilson, Cecelia Ahern and Jodi Picoult as a teenager.

You! Why do you write?

AS: I think writing is a way to become an immortal. When I leave this world, my words will be left behind. Writing is my oxygen, my freedom, my way of communicating. I don’t have a choice but to write to feel sane. I also blog on Instagram with a handle @writeroholic.

You! As a young girl, what problems, you think, are being faced by the young women around the globe?

AS: I think all around the globe women face the problem of being boxed into specific categories. We’re trying hard to crawl out of these boxes and create our own identities, which have not been crafted by the past, culture or men. We don’t know who we are, we aren’t taught to find out who we are to be able to become ‘someone’ whose identity is not a side character of a mother, daughter, sister or wife in someone else’s life. We’re struggling to be the protagonists of our own stories, to be given the importance that we deserve and have our life be our own. Isn’t that a right?

You! Do you think there is place for new writers in today’s techno world?

AS: There’s always a place for new writers because there is a lot to write about. We need more voices to be heard and we need to have a substantial amount of quality content being put out and that’s a motivation for new writers.

You! What is your opinion on ebooks? Are people still interested in reading and buying books?

AS: Anything that makes people read more, is great! I am totally pro saving trees and increasing readership, but I have also been a paperback person. I love the physical feel and smell of a book, flipping pages and pausing with a bookmark. I know a lot of people who still prefer traditional reading, and will continue to read and buy more books.

You! Have you thought of writing fiction?

AS: I do write fiction. I chose to do an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Surrey, specifically because the university did not box you into a category of poetry or fiction and I wanted to do both. I wrote fiction, a couple of chapters of a novel, for my dissertation.

You! What are some of your hobbies?

AS: I love travelling. I sketch and paint whenever I get the time.

You! What are your future plans?

AS: In the near future, I’m planning to do a book tour in the UK. By the end of the year, I want to have picked my novel up again and writing it.

You! What message do you want to give through your poetry?

AS: I want people to know that it’s okay to be flawed and still be loved. That there is love in pain, in sadness, and in the tough times. That everyone is capable of giving it and most importantly receiving it.

Note: ‘Sens Me’ is available in Pakistan at Liberty Books and online on Amazon and Barnes& Nobles.