Sabrina Fatma Ahmad’s debut poetry collection “Sehri Tales” was launched at Baatighar in Dhaka on Friday. The book contains 90 short poems written during Sehri time over three Ramadans. The author shared with Showtime how she came up with the idea of this unique book
What inspired you to write“Sehri Tales?”
As I was growing up, my father would have his dinner alone and go to bed early during Ramadan. When I woke up for Sehri, I’d find a handwritten letter reminding me to drink water.
So, Sehri and short notes always had a connection for you.
I guess you could always say I had a connection with words during Sehri. I told my friend Lori Simpson about this and she made it a tradition to message me every night at Sehri time during Ramadan.
When did you start writing these small poems during Sehri?
In 2016, I was feeling very low, creatively and emotionally. I’d gotten a degree in Creative Writing from Canada, but had done no creative writing since I got back. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. So when Lori, who’s also a writer, knocked on the eve of Ramadan, I felt an intense guilt about this, and decided to write something on the spot. All I had at hand was my phone, so I posted the microfiction as status message. It felt so good to do that, I did it again the following night and the night after that. Thus Sehri Tales was born.
When did you decide to turn these status messages into a book?
This would have remained just a fun exercise, but for two people. As a journalist, I have always thought of myself as very prosaic, but my colleague RifatMunim scolded me and told me to take it seriously. He wouldn’t give up on me, so I felt like I had to continue.
After the second year of doing this, I had realized that there was a mental wellness aspect to the project. There are experts and institutions that advocate writing as therapy, and I think there is something about taking an intense emotion - negative or positive - and transmuting that into art for someone else’s consumption that is incredibly cathartic.
This is something my good friend ElitaKarim recognized, and she has been so good with sharing my stories that the talented XishanBhai and Samara Apu decided the project was “worthy” of publications.
The resulting book is a culmination of three years’ worth of poetry, microfiction and experimental nonfiction, as well as prompts and notes on structure for anyone wishing to explore a creative route towards better mental health.