'Quiet Women' by Afshan Shafi

So far, we have seen books on poetry frolicking with our emotions, however, recently, a budding writer and poet has grabbed everyone’s attention, both nationally and internationally. What’s extremely interesting about her book is, apart from poetry, that it has related illustrations too. The poetess has collaborated with international artists and formed a unique collection of her poems in a book which she names as ‘Quiet Women’. Afshan Shafi lives in Lahore and has studied English Literature and International Relations at The University of Buckingham. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Wales, Blackbox Manifold, Flag + Void, Luna Luna, Clinic, 3am magazine, as well as others. Her poems have also appeared in the anthology Smear: Poems for girls (edited by Greta Bellamacina) and are forthcoming in the anthology Halal if you hear me (edited by Fatima Asgher and Safia Elhillo) and The New River Press Year Book. Her debut chapbook of poems 'Odd Circles' was published by Readings (Pakistan) in 2014. Her next collection of poetry is something unique as it has illustrations by Samya Arif, Ishita Basu Mallik and Marjan Baniasadi, titled 'Quiet Women', is so much being looked forward to.

Anis Shivani, the author of Karachi Raj, My Tranquil War and Other Poems, praises the book ‘Quiet Women’, which is soon to be launched for public, in following words:

"This book is a compressed whole, a dynamite unity, a wise history of female (aesthetic and social) awakening in a world that has lost its moorings that has few comparisons in the contemporary American poetry world I know best; certainly no one I know among the aspiring poets in America is capable of a mature, objective, dazzling performance such as this one. I can only imagine how far this poet will go, if she hangs on to her supreme confidence."

In our chit chat with Afshan, we asked her perspective about these things and got her in depth and mindful replies.

What was the notion behind the title (Quiet Women) of the book?

The title poem 'Quiet Women' is a tribute to a close family member who battled addiction and died very young. For me the poem is an attempt to make sense of her battle and what I feel must have been the pressure of maintaining her silence. I feel like she endured, like many women from this part of the world, from the absence of a voice to express her battle. I think female addicts face far worse stigma then male ones, and this is tragically unfair. Women have to suffer the chaos of their addiction as well as the overwhelming censure of society.

Does each poem have a different idea behind it or does the whole book contain some special signature harmony followed?

A lot of the poems deal with personal conceptions of the 'feminine' if you will or the work of female artists/painters. I think women are too often seen as the beheld object or as 'muses' rather than originators or visionary thinkers. In this book, I tried to make sense of the perspectives that shape our collective and personal identities.

What was the collaboration process like? Did you explain each poem to the illustrator or are the poems synced with the artworks later?

I sent all of the artists the poems beforehand and they created accordingly. It was so interesting to see what came about because they all so different to each other! Since some of the poems in the book have been inspired by female artists whose name should be known more, working with all female team was particularly meaningful.

Can you tell us more about the artists who you worked with?

Samya Arif's work is defined by its lush, extraordinary detail. She thinks in a rich and dreamlike way. Marjan Baniasadi hails from Iran and has studied at the NCA and her paintings are chaotic, yet elegant and wise. Ishita who lives in Calcutta is a poet as well as an artist and there is such a yearning and winsomeness to her creations. I also came across the work of the Lahore-based photographer Bihammal Zurqa who brilliantly combines graphic art with her photos. You will see how their work flows the poetry, when the book is out.

Tell us what you expect from the publication of your book?

I hope that it will encourage people to experiment with language! Also, I want to see more hybrid forms of writing in bookstores. Let's challenge the concept of what language can do!

The author is a high-school teacher, considerate mentor and a passionate learner. She pinpoints fashion trends and loves writing about all the chic people in the glossy industry as well as about the drifts in the fast-paced fashion industry.

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