Condiucted by Shobhana Kumar
What does identity mean to you? How does it translate on the page and off it?
To me, identity is poetry itself. It’s our own juxtaposition, our contrasting strengths and weaknesses, the constantly conflicting moments of success and failure. On the page, it feels like I know who I am. I accept all the things that make my identity, all the highs and lows. After all, it was the page that chose to listen to me during a time when not many else would. Off the page is a little different. I am proud of the progress I have made, in instilling confidence and acceptance into myself. But the real world, as I’ve learned and continue to learn, is not always kind to what is different. As a person who grew up balancing two cultures consistently, not everyone was understanding and accepting of that tightrope walking act. Writing is a way I developed my identity, and learned how bravery and vulnerability often go hand in hand. By sharing our stories with each other, we share our identities. By sharing our identities, we break down barriers, become informed, and gain empathy. I’m simultaneously intertwining how I portray my identity in writing and in person, and I continue to learn from the brilliant writers I love to read.
When reading your work, memories leap at the reader very frequently. They are haunting images, and speak of love and togetherness. How have memories shaped you as a writer?
I’m the kind of person who forgets why I just walked into a certain room, or where I put down the pen I had in my hand literally ten seconds ago. But I can recall the lighting, set up, and mood of a room from seven years ago, or riding my bike without training wheels by focusing on a leaf on the sidewalk. As a writer, my memories have shaped me by helping me focus on the small details, the tiny things that are often overlooked, but which make up an experience. It helps me work on using sensory details in my writing. By incorporating memories, I also weave in nostalgia. I think I feel nostalgic a lot these days, especially as it’s my last year of high school, so I’m recalling lots of childhood memories. I’m very grateful to my family for giving me happy memories throughout my childhood, and for also teaching me to make my own as I grow up.
You speak of music as a powerful influence. One can also see how you engage with language. Can you tell us a little more?
I think it’s beautiful how someone’s voice rises in pitch when asking a question. The breath someone takes between sentences could be considered a measure of rests. I actually don’t think language and music are entirely separate concepts. Our voices, our command of language . . . I’ve come to learn that we humans are such musical creatures. When I write, I hope I write something that is musical, that captures emotion the way music does, with rhythm and dynamics.
In my AP Psychology class, we learned about a theory that suggests that language affects how our brains think. The more languages we expose ourselves to, the more diverse our thinking becomes. I think that also goes hand in hand with listening to others’ stories and identities. I’ve been taking Spanish at school for 6 years now, and I’m learning so much about how emotions and actions are expressed differently. For instance, in Spanish, words are masculine or feminine, but in Farsi, there is no sense of gender in a sentence! That can alter one’s perspective of the world entirely! Growing up in a household where we spoke Farsi, I also try to be innovative, and incorporate a lot of Farsi sentence structure and semantics into what I write in English.
When did you first know that you are a poet? Was it epiphany or did it grow on you naturally?
When I was little, I was that kid who changed her mind on what she wanted to be when she grew up on a weekly basis (I apologize for raising my parents’ hopes when I declared I wanted to be a lawyer one week. The next week, I set my mind on being a fairy). It was around fourth grade that I started writing, and devotedly went to after school Writer’s Club meetings. When I began middle school, I found myself expanding my writing to poetry, but I still didn’t think of myself as a poet, just as “someone who liked to write.” I realized I was a poet very suddenly, maybe only a couple of years ago, when I found myself up at 3 in the morning on a school night, frantically scribbling an idea on a piece of scrap paper. The next day, I could barely stay awake in school, but I was very proud of the poem that resulted.
Where do you see your writing taking you? Do you see books of verse, fiction, non-fiction, fantasy?
I think I still have a lot of work to do in terms of improving and learning my writing. I hope to do so by reading and practicing more. In the future, I hope to publish fiction novels and collections of short stories and poetry. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for three years now, and I have successfully completed two projects! I am confident in my ability to work hard and get things done. When I go to college, I want to immerse myself in a writing community, and participate in writing workshops.
Do tell us a little about Arian on an ordinary day, a day perhaps when the Muse does not visit? What is her life about?
I am currently a high school senior, so the majority of my daily life revolves around school. When I’m not doing my homework and studying, I am monitoring my college applications’ statuses with fingers crossed. I definitely think I’m at a pivotal point in my life, and I’m learning to live in the moment. I love painting and playing the violin. On the weekends, I can be found at the local bookstore, volunteering at my community’s nature center, or exploring nearby Washington D.C.
Thank you, Arian. Just one more before we leave you with the Muse. Who are the writers who have influenced you the most? What do you read?
My inner bookworm lights up with happiness when it comes to talking about books. My favorite writers include Suzanne Collins, Tahereh Mafi, Khaled Hosseini, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and the great poets of ancient Persia. I read a mix of modern and classic, but I will devour pretty much everything and anything. One of my favorite series that I could talk about endlessly is The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, who writes about a society dangerously similar to ours with a precise, haunting style. One book that I could say changed my life is Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, which captures the sacrifices and hardships Afghan women endure. I love books with some good social commentary and a unique voice!