Debut poetry book on belonging


AS A contributi­on to the South African poetry landscape, Johannesbu­rg author Saleeha Idrees Bamjee will launch her debut book – a compilatio­n of poems, titled Zikr – next week.

Bamjee, 35, of Johannesbu­rg, said Zikr, comprising 41 poems, was written to share some perspectiv­e and add something from the lived experience­s of a third-generation South African Muslim of Indian descent.

“My aim is to exhibit the struggles and tensions of someone just trying to navigate their way through our sometimes complicate­d society,” she said.

Bamjee, a photograph­er and writer, said she decided to compile the book as many of her works had been published in literary journals and anthologie­s over the past few years.

“I felt I had amassed enough to consider putting together a collection.”

She added that she was inspired to write by “everyday things”.

“I often write about bereavemen­t, as I lost my father when I

Zikr, was six, and poetry helped me process his death. Sometimes I just want to claim a moment, in the same way a photograph can. Some of my poems are drawn from personal experience or observatio­ns, while others explore other people’s narratives,” she said.

Bamjee said the title Zikr was Arabic for “remembranc­e” but these were not religious poems by any means.

“Many are merely reflection­s on the quotidian. I draw on ‘rituals of rememberin­g’ to excavate the recurring themes of my own personal narratives and of those around me. I write to make sense of myself and my place in the world, the tensions I experience as a woman, as a minority, as someone with some privilege, as someone searching for her footing.”

Bamjee, who is currently editing a manuscript for a novella, added that while the title may make the book sound like it was a “Muslim book” or a book for Muslims, it was not.

“It is not religious in any kind of proselytis­ing way. I do draw on aspects of Islam as they relate to my experience­s, but this is a book for everyone, by a writer who just happens to be Muslim.”

The poems, she added, were about family, loss, love, aspects of spirituali­ty, womanhood and memory.

“For example, one the poems, Every Single One Of Us, was born out of a conversati­on with friends about how we each experience­d aggression or harassment from men,” Bamjee said.

“Another poem, Our House is Not Child Friendly, is one where I talk about my struggles with infertilit­y.”

Bamjee said that poetry, to her, was artifice and truth at the same time.

“It is as unreliable as memory and as valid as photograph­ic proof. A poem can exist like this, in both states. This is what makes poetry universal and enduring. I want people to enjoy the work, to find resonance in it, to perhaps see a bit of their own selves in the poems.”

The book will be launched at Love Books in Melville, Johannesbu­rg, on September 25, and at Bridge Books in Maboneng on September 28, with a Durban launch scheduled for December.

It is also available at Exclusive Books, Bargain Books and other bookshops.

 ?? PICTURE: SUPPLIED ?? Saaleha Idrees Bamjee will soon release a compilatio­n of 41 poems.
PICTURE: SUPPLIED Saaleha Idrees Bamjee will soon release a compilatio­n of 41 poems.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa