Farena Bajwa is a poet, storyteller, filmmaker, actor and voice-over artist. Everything she knows about art; she owes some Youtube tutorials and loads of imagination, combined with passion. She studied marketing management and at some point, became a site manager — but most importantly, she loves coffee and cake. Flowers Grow on Broken Walls is her first book.
TBE: Thank you for taking time out to answer a few questions for The Bookish Elf. It was sheer pleasure reading your poetry. Could you please tell us more about your latest poetry collection, Flowers Grow on Broken Walls, that isn’t in blurb? What is the significance of the title?
Farena Bajwa: Thank you so much for your kind words, I am happy you enjoyed reading it. Flowers Grow on Broken Walls is told in a form of diary entries but could also feel as if you’re reading a story with an introduction, climax, and end. The best part of the book is that the story might be told from my perspective, but it’s everyone’s story at one point. So I would like the readers to feel as if they’re taking this journey by themselves and come out with a different perspective than they had when they started reading chapter one.
I would like to hope that anyone who reads this book comes out with a different understanding of life by the time they reach the final chapter, because that’s what the book is about: not running away from your fears and insecurities but acknowledging and facing them as this is the only true way to enjoy our inner freedom.
TBE: What was your first encounter with poetry? What fascinated you the most about it?
Farena Bajwa: I actually never bought any poetry books before I started writing poetry, I just enjoyed reading poems online. I don’t recall my first encounter, I guess poems have been a part of my life since forever. They were always nearby. When my sisters bought poetry books, when they surfaced online on my feed, when they were mentioned and recited in movies or series or when I specifically looked up poems to search for words I could relate to.
And this is what fascinates me the most about poetry. The words stay the same, but the emotions behind those words change and differ for everyone reading it. We look at the same thing, but everyone experiences and sees it differently. We relate to it and attach our story to those words. And we feel validated in our emotions, know that we are not alone in what we feel, it’s almost as if we search for approval for our emotions.
We live in an opiniated society where we’re told how to feel about a certain situation. Let that sink in for a moment. We are told on how we are supposed to feel about something that happened to us because they experienced it differently and managed to come out of it in a different way. So I think especially in those times where you feel like you should’ve been happy by now and why is it taking so long to get out of our self-made misery (because let’s face it, that’s what it is. We are doing so much better than we actually think we are), so in those times poetry is something that helps giving your feelings a voice.
There also is always a hidden message inside that can help you. Even if it is a sad poem, it can help you by not feeling alone or knowing that even this person who wrote this very sad poem got out of it because at one point, that ink filled with sorrow and pain, turned into ink full of hope, trust, energy and happiness.
TBE: What, or who, inspired you to start writing poetry? Where did the inspiration for the poems featured in your book come from?
Farena Bajwa: The poems are based on my experiences. I’ve been journaling my whole life, but one day I was too exhausted to write about my day, so I just started to write words about how I felt. Just that. I am sure that those short segments wouldn’t have made sense to anyone else but me. But that was the time when I discovered the power of poetry.
I knew I didn’t want to write a story, because this is not what I was doing. I was writing about my journey to healing and I loved the thought of anyone else profiting from that. So that’s when I knew, poetry is the best way for me to express myself and help someone feel less alone. I wanted people to be able to relate to words coming from me just how I could relate to words written by someone else.
TBE: Can you describe the process of transforming your original ideas into final words on paper?
Farena Bajwa: I wrote my initial thoughts down on paper and kept the poems as they were until I had about 100 poems. I decided I had covered my experience with these 100 poems and went on to form themes and crossed out poems that were either too much of the same feeling or weren’t fitting into any of the themes.
I always like to say that poems have a life of their own, “they get a hint of my feeling and then they start to spread and to fall”. That’s how themes were formed as well. All I had to do was to align those poems. After having found my final collection that made it into the book, I went on to type the poems on my laptop and started correcting grammar, adding words, and sometimes changing whole poems. After that was done, since English is not my first language, I asked a native American to have a look at my poetry for additional revising. And then I started illustrating and editing.
TBE: Do you think poetry is an important form of expression and communication? Why?
Farena Bajwa: I don’t know if it’s important, there are a lot of different ways to express your emotions and to communicate, but I’d say that it’s one of the more beautiful and easiest way to communicate. It feels like having the freedom to throw your feelings on a sheet of paper without hesitations or thinking twice about what others might feel about it. Because as I mentioned, everyone will read what they want to read and everyone will relate to it in a different way.
When you write poetry the only thing that you have to do is to be honest about your feelings and to not be afraid of showing your true self. It’s your story, it’s your way of seeing things and there is nothing wrong about that.
TBE: Tell us a little bit about the design element that accompanies your poems. How did that come about, and what made you want to illustrate your poetry with drawings?
Farena Bajwa: When I knew I would be publishing the book I instantly knew that my book would also be including drawings. I used to draw a lot when I was a kid, it was always a lot of fun for me. Since there are some very short poems that even include one sentences (prose poems) illustrations seemed to be a necessity to display the emotion in a easier way for the reader.
The illustrations weigh in and underline every poem and the feeling behind. I also drew the first thing that came into my mind when I read the poem (e.g., the illustration of a slinky toy for the poem “I am trapped in a loop of memory, I am not sure if I want a way out yet”.) so that was a very fun process for me as well.
TBE: What would you say to a young person starting out on the road to exploring poetry? Who do you recommend when someone says they want to read more poetry?
Farena Bajwa: I’d suggest to visit a website called “peotryfoundation” on which many different poets are introduced. I visit this website regularly as well since they publish so called “poems of the day”. You can read many kinds of poetry there. You can also obviously read books by Rupi Kaur, or Amanda lovelace if you’re starting to read poetry as they’re very easy to read and also not too long. There also illustrations included which is always very nice to look at when you’re reading a book.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Farena Bajwa: I can tell you that I am writing something, but I am not a big fan of talking about projects that are not ready. Other than the fact that this project can become something completely different by the end, I like to enjoy the freedom I have with writing and take my sweet time. It’s ready when it’s ready and I’ll let you know soon, promise.