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Interview: Sascha Aurora Akhtar

Sascha Aurora Akhtar is a poet of the liminal – someone for whom all is magic. 'The Grimoire of Grimalkin', published in 2007 was greeted as “a contemporary masterpiece”, with The Guardian naming Akhtar one of the top twelve poets to watch. She considers herself a 'Pakistani-British-American': something reflected in the linguistic registers in her work. Her first short story collection is 'Of Necessity And Wanting'.

Sascha Aurora Akhtar drawn by Karen Scudder at Welcome to Cloisterham 2022
Sascha Aurora Akhtar drawn by Karen Scudder at Welcome to Cloisterham 2022

1) Who and/or what are your writing influences?

I will admit my earliest influence was the musicality of Shakespeare and Lewis Carrol. The syntax, the language. Then it was the emotion and symbology of the French poets. I continue also to be most of all interested in poetry of revolution - inner and outer. This kind of poetry always breaks with some tradition and always speaks truth.

2) What drives you to write poetry? If you write other in forms, what makes you decide that this piece is a poem?

Well, when I get deeply moved by a real life story of oppression or injustice, I write. Even if this is in my own life and I feel deeply wounded. I write stories and non-fiction. My poetry comes from a sense of wanting to remould pain or sadness into something beautiful. Palatable, even. Often it may not be apparent what I am writing about, because I seek comfort in the musicality of language. Above all, I have been always drawn to the idea of creating a full sensory immersion via language. Trance even.

3) Where do you write? Do you have a strict regime, or write as and when?

As you continue 'being a writer,' this changes. Life is not always controllable. I write anywhere, everywhere, whenever, however even. Then I later piece things together.

4) How would you describe your poetry? Or how have others described it?

Hypnotic. Embodied. Musical. Powerful. Emotive.

5) Are you more a poet of place or a poet of the personal? Do you write about the exterior world, or your internal world?

I love place. I love how an interaction with place can create a new internal experience. Many years ago, I was interviewed for the London Magazine and the interviewer titled the interview 'Open Conduit'. I am interested in psychogeography. When it comes to animals though, I often create a stronger sense of place through them. As in my bird series of poems published in Poetry Wales, however, it is still an 'inner experience'.

Sascha is coming to our Poetry Day at St Margaret's Church, Rainham, on Wednesday 7 June, and we're looking forwards to hearing her read!


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