Najwa Zebian on how poetry helps her define home
|Toronto Star 18 Apr 2019 at 18:41|
Najwa Zebian is one of a new generation of poets who have become popular through social media and, particularly, Instagram, with almost a million followers hanging on to her every poem. She has touched on a chord with people looking for affirmation. In her third and latest book, Sparks of Phoenix (Andrews McMeel Publishing) she brings her readers through the next part of her personal journey — dealing with abuse and heartbreak and creating a space where she can be herself and where her voice is strong. So, we asked her the question: How does poetry help you define home? Here’s what she said:
I define home not as a physical place but as a place where our souls and hearts feel at peace. Where we feel we can be fully and wholeheartedly and authentically ourselves without having to beg for anyone’s love. That’s how I define home.
Najwa Zebian, author of Sparks of Phoenix, Andrews McMeel Publishing (Simon and Schuster)
Sparks of Phoenix, by Najwa Zebian, Andrews McMeel Publishing, $22.99. (Simon and Schuster)
In the past I would define myself by how welcomed I was into other people’s lives. So I was really a passive contributor toward my own feeling of home ... instead of building my own for myself.
From my own personal experience I’ve found that being able to write about all of the fears and the insecurities and perceived weaknesses and vulnerabilities, writing about those things in a raw manner and in an unapologetic way that’s not asking for anyone’s validation ... writing about all of the things that stood in the way of me feeling like I was home. That was the starting point of me asking what does home really mean? What does it really feel like? What does it look like? How do I actually build that home for myself? That all happened through poetry.
To me poetry is the purest language of the soul. I don’t believe there should be any rules to what poetry is other than being the purest form of self expression. It’s the closest thing to your soul, to who you really are. So to be able to put my soul on paper has really helped me shape and build that home within me — feeling home, or coming home to myself means being compassionate with myself.
It always amazes me how much people can relate to my writing. Many of my poems are very, very, very personal. The response that I get from people usually is ‘Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been trying to say for years.” I believe the way that people resonate with my words (is) that my words offer them that “me too” element where I’m saying I understand, you’re not alone, someone else out there has experienced this or is experiencing this ... (readers) feel as if they’ve been given permission to feel their feelings as well.
When I feel the need to be understood or when I feel the need to not feel so isolated and alone, poetry is what gives me that feeling. So I’ll find myself taking one of the books I have at home out and reading it or going to Chapters and just sitting and browsing different poetry books. It’s not just writing it, it’s also reading it that harbours that sense of peace that I feel I need.
Wrting those books, if I could tell (people) one thing it would be don’t be afraid of truly showing who you are, the deepest parts of your being. Because if you don’t, you will never experience authenticity.