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Promising Poet

‘There are many ways to arrange the words and letters on a page to evoke a certain image’

Syahrina Hanif, the promising poet from Apeejay Panchsheel Park is fascinated on how readers associate the same poem with different beautiful meanings



Imagine a scene for a moment: Two traditional dancers, sword in hand, dancing, jumping and fighting each other in a pit surrounded by people, watching enamoured. Sweat dripping off the faces of the two performers, the sound of the clash of their iron swords as they charge on each other with full aggression and force. Who would imagine them both as the two halves of a whole that not only compliment but also complete each other? Right you are! Only a poet would dare to have the heart for this. And not an ordinary poet, for though she is very young, her power over words is tremendous.

Meet Syahrina Hanif, class 11 student at Apeejay Panchsheel Park, whose literary prowess makes her stand tall as a poet. In the Apeejay Promising Poet interview series this week, Syahrina explains how the art of poetry resembles a miniature character study to her. Edited excerpts:

At what age did you start writing poems?

Just recently! I’ve written short stories since I was in elementary school but poetry was never something I took seriously until now. I started scribbling down the lyrics for some songs I composed in ninth standard, when I was still learning to play the ukulele. I was fourteen then. ‘Partners’, the poem which was published at the Apeejay Newsroom website, was the first poem I wrote at the age of sixteen, in my tenth standard.

What was the inspiration behind choosing to write poems?

By the means of poetry, I can write about anything which strikes my fancy in a short, simple package. Most of them are my views on stories I’ve seen, heard, or read from varying mediums. I think of my poems as miniature character studies, but I also prefer to keep my works open to interpretation. It fascinates me how different people associate the same poems with different meanings. What feels distant to one might be deeply relatable to another.

Who is your favourite poet and what is your favourite poem?

Hmm….this is a tricky one! Every poet has their own unique style and specialty! I do remember reading The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe when I was younger and I really enjoyed it. I’d gladly pick that one as my favourite! The Indonesian poet, Chairil Anwar, has a particularly daring and distinctive way with words which I really admire. The same goes for Nakahara Chūya, a poet from Japan. I enjoy his poems which I read in translation though.

Your poem ‘Partners’ is simply brilliant. The thought that both partners though fighting are still the two halves of a whole is so mature. Tell us the thought process behind this poem?

The idea for ‘Partners’ came after watching a video of a traditional Javanese dance performance. I thought it would be interesting for a dance of two to be alluded to as a fight and thus the early concept of this poem was conjured into existence. It was also based on the relationship between a pair of characters from a series I like. In spite of all their disagreements, as well as how they seem to loathe each other on the surface, they can’t survive without the other’s presence. I find that very beautiful! 

Please tell us about your process behind writing a poem?

As soon as inspiration for a poem pops up from the void, I quickly note it down on my phone. Then I’d sit down somewhere and try to construct a coherent narrative surrounding the central idea. I mostly rely on instinct while picking the words. Usually, it takes me about an hour or so to complete a poem, though I might spend the rest of the day editing it.

Do you prefer rhyme or free verse?

I prefer free verse over rhyme. It allows for more leniency in telling a story in the way I want. I also like to play around with alliteration and rhythm. I love experimenting with new formats. There are so many ways to arrange the words and letters on a single page to evoke a certain image. It is absolutely fascinating!

How does Apeejay School Panchsheel Park help you to write such beautiful poems?

I’d like to thank my English teachers for demystifying the art of poetry and giving me a general sense of how it works. The poems in my CBSE textbook are fun specimens to dissect. Also, thanks to the lessons I’ve learned at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park. I’ve gained more inspiration than I ever thought possible. I never would’ve considered submitting my own poems if it weren’t for the encouragement from my dear teachers.  I would especially like to thank my English teacher in class 10, Majusha Das ma’am.

What are some of your upcoming poems?

I’m currently working on a small collection of poems based on a collaborative storytelling project I’m participating in. For example, my recent poem ‘Moon Half Full’ was largely inspired by a character a friend of mine created for this same project, giving a snapshot of his repetitive, scheduled life under the spotlight (hence the usage of moon phases as a metaphor). I want to write more of these. I think it will be fun. 

Arijit Roy is a young correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected].