Contributor Interview: Asnia Asim

What inspired you to write “A Refugee Contemplates Foam,” which appears in Nimrod’s Leaving Home, Finding Home issue?

I often seek in the space of poetry respite and release for pent-up political angst. But it’s important to understand and honor the quality of one’s anxiety and find an appropriate form for it. Otherwise it’s just a rant. The inspiration/angst for writing “A Refugee Contemplates Foam” built up over months of seeing the heartbreaking images of Syrian families scattered at sea. Interestingly, its form was inspired by an entry I came across in Henry David Thoreau’s journal:

“The rattling of the tea-kettle below stairs reminds me of the cowbells I used to hear when berrying in the Great Fields many years ago, sounding distant and deep amid the birches. That cheap piece of tinkling brass which the farmer hangs about his cow’s neck has been more to me than the tons of metal which are swung in the belfry.”

I loved how Thoreau tied the sound of the tea-kettle to the metal of bells big and small, present and past. In the poem I emulated him, linking the foam of a halloween costume to a refugee’s life-vest to a luxury mattress in a five-star hotel.

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing poetry since childhood. I started working on a novel last year.

What’s your writing process like?

I follow a strict daily routine which includes reading, writing, and studying Arabic. My better poems have always been the spontaneous fall-on-the-page kind of creatures. But I revise thoroughly, and often harass someone (usually my husband and sister) to read them to me. For some reason I find it easier to trace the rhythm of my writing in the voice of another.

Do you have a specific place you like to write?

Yes, I always write on a mint green leaf-drop table, littered with books and magazines, placed in my favorite nook of the apartment.

What are you reading right now?

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, and Precious Nonsense by Stephen Booth.

Check out Asnia’s “A Refugee Contemplates Foam” here.

Asnia Asim is the recipient of University of Chicago’s Corbel Scholarship, which is awarded to graduate students of exceptional academic promise, and of Brandeis University’s Alan B. Slifka Tuition Award. Her work has appeared in several print and online journals and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology.



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