Mantle, Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten
Tell us about the conception of this poem.
I wrote this poem a few weeks after one of my closest friends had her wedding ceremony. We met one another at our university in Saudi Arabia, and were two of a total of three students in the university's English Literature program. We spent most of our university hours together -- attended most of our classes together -- and grew closer as the years unfolded. It was difficult to find places to meet outside of university -- neither of us came from wealthy families and as such didn't have drivers--and in Jeddah, where women aren't allowed to drive, this posed a problem if we needed to meet outside of campus. Mostly we asked our fathers to drive us to places -- malls, shops, restaurants. Even if neither of us particularly liked malls, or shopping.
I think one of few times we went somewhere different was in the week before her marriage... a bittersweet time, really--I hadn't realized how much I loved her (or how wholly I loved her, or even in what particular ways I had grown to love her) and on a carousal, we held hands -- on a tower drop, a tower that lifted us above the city -- we could see the Red Sea, the roads, the lights, the night sky, our houses -- we held hands. I think those moments will remain impressed in my memory for years and years to come. We held hands, and we loved each other, and wanted good for each other, and knew we would part soon -- me traveling to the US for my graduate degree. I think this is how this poem was born, an impulse to commemorate our friendship, the way in which the friendships in spaces like our little university and a city that didn't allow much movement (at least for those of a certain socio-economic status) helped forge.What authors of late have inspired your own work?
Of late -- Enrique Martinez Celaya (who I had the pleasure to meet and converse with at the Vermont Studio Center this summer), Alistair MacLeod, Li-Young Lee, Khaled Mattawa, and Yehuda Amichai. Has the idea of homeland(s) changed for you through the years? How?
Definitely. I was raised in Saudi Arabia, am ethnically Bengali and was born in the US. Over the years I've come to realize, for me at the very least, there is no discrete and absolute homeland as such. For me there is only family, friends, and love, and where they are and where you are and when. What is most imaginary and what is most real about your homeland(s)?
I don't know how I can answer this question. They are both imaginary and real simultaneously... I don't know how to untangle the two.
//Samiah Haque is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers' Program where she edited for The Michigan Quarterly Review. Her poetry most recently appears in CURA, Nashville Review, Santa Clara Review, Paper Darts, Twelfth House and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships from Kundiman and the Vermont Studio Center.