Husna is a dentist by qualification, but a writer by choice. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism as well. She discontinued her clinical practice several years back to devote all her time to the written word.
Husna is the author of “Saudade” – a collection of short stories, 2017 and “My Lyrical Symphony” – an anthology of poems, 2008. She is an avid traveller and photography enthusiast and uses her experiences and cultural immersion as inspiration for her stories and poems.
Zikr, in essence, is a manifestation of that. It is the pursuit of identity, humanity, love and spiritual enlightenment.
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, Zikr, that isn’t in blurb? What is the significance of the title?
“Zikr” was an intense labour of love. In the sense that every verse was written in a moment of true inspiration. So it’s like a journal of unforgettable instances. A memoir. I get asked this question a lot, about the significance of the title. Like most of the verses in “Zikr”, the title too came as an epiphany. The pure emotion and divinity of circumstance the verses were inspired from, the remembrance of things past. What else if not Zikr? My verses are my Zikr and ode to the Universe/ the creator.
TBE: What was your first encounter with poetry? What fascinated you the most about it?
Husna: I have been reading poetry ever since I can remember. As a young student poems intrigued me as much as the poets. I always felt that poems were like a puzzle that the poets wanted us to decipher. For me it was like trying to read their minds. From Brown, Rossetti to Shakespeare, Goethe and Lorca to Bukowsky, Plath, Darwish, Faiz etc; it’s been a long journey. I found my centre and being, however in the Sufi poets. Rumi and Hafez in particular.
TBE: The centuries saw the poetries emerge from the shadow of Sufism to become the medium for the expressions of love, longing and revolution. How do you see some changes in form and thematic concerns across the centuries?
Husna: If you look at the more archaic textual translations of Sufi poetry, it is very different from the interpretations we give them today. Sufi poetry has always been singular in its devotion to God. That has always been the premise. As an ascetic, the verses were a manifestation of that intense devotion to God. God thus became the central muse, the beloved. The object and subject of much adoration and reverence through verse. I think over the years much has been lost in translation. It began changing much of its original form and acquiring a more romanticized one. I see that as a kind of metamorphosis. It appealed to a more global audience.
TBE: Rumi continues to tower over Sufi poetry. What do you think makes his poetry relevant for all time?
Husna: I’m not an expert on the subject but from what I have read from Persian literary circles, I think a lot of that has to do with the occidental translators of Rumi’s poetry which was originally in Farsi and Arabic. The poems were translated in such a way that it would appeal and be relatable to the global audience. I think it lost a lot of its context in translation. Nevertheless, Rumi’s verses encompassed themes of intense love, devotion, compassion and universal brotherhood that are timeless in essence.
TBE: What, or who, inspired you to start writing poetry? Where did the inspiration for the poems featured in your book come from?
Husna: I think it was a natural transition from a reader of poems to a writer of one.
I used to write very long verses, but these days I write short ones. Inspiration was everything; from dew on rain and October sunsets to love, war, peace and loss.
TBE: Can you describe the process of transforming your original ideas into final words on paper?
Husna: You can’t. It just happens. It’s quite inexplicable. It’s emotion in translation.
TBE: Do you think poetry is an important form of expression and communication? Why?
Husna: I think poetry is very important in our lives today. To read and be read. It’s important to touch the core of ourselves and of another. To move and be moved. The world needs more emotion in these times and less reaction. As someone once said, only a mountain can understand the core of another mountain. We need to be those mountains.
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?
Husna: As I have mentioned in the book, most of the calligraphic art accompanying the verses are Zikr, the incantations uttered in prayer in remembrance of God. Zikr is traditionally done in a repeated pattern. The artwork therefore too is repeated to signify this. The artworks were painstakingly chosen and bought online. The idea was to give a sense of the divine inspiration that went into the making of these verses.
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?
Husna: I’d ask them to read poetry obsessively, irrespective of genre or period. You could start with the simplistic styles of Victorian poets, Tennyson, Rossetti, Browning, Brown, Wilde etc and then progress to other more complex forms.
TBE: How was your publishing experience with Leadstart?
Husna: I had an incredible experience working with Leadstart. The team has been very professional and extremely warm. For me it was like working with a close group of friends.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Husna: Poetry is always a work in progress. Currently I’m just done working on a crime thriller, fiction. A writer of verse and crime? Yes, stranger things have happened in the literary world.