How do you convey your emotions when no word exists in the English language to explain them? How are we limited by cultural borders? How can we use an art form to overcome resistance? And what is resistance, anyway? Questions like these were raised at Poetic Resistance, a poetry workshop held last Thursday by the Afghan Students’ Association. The event was held in collaboration with UTM alumna Frishta Bastan, former president of the ASA and founder of Fresh Poetry.
According to Bastan, the goal of the event was to “take back the narrative that’s always been imposed [on] you in English, but to rewrite and relive your own life, your own native tongue, and your identity”. The “resist” in Poetic Resistance referred to not only political resistance, but a refusal to stop others from defining your identity. The event was open to students of all backgrounds.
Bastan advised students to write a number of words that came to mind when they thought of “resistance”, which then led to a dialogue about what resistance means to them. For some, it meant breaking away from stereotypes; for others, it led to the questioning of cultural borders as a form of separating oneself from their neighbour. Bastan then told students to weave their individual words together into sentences.
“Write, don’t edit,” she recommended. “Don’t think too much.” Bastan suggests avoiding editing while writing the first draft to retain the raw emotions of a poem.
Two student translators, Wares Fazelyar and Telwasa Akbarzai, assisted others in translating their work into Farsi and Pashto.
The students then worked to create a collaborative poem. Each student added a few lines of their “resistance”, whether it was an internal struggle, a battle with faith, or an external conflict. They aimed to seam together an untitled poem that conveyed opposite sides of the same struggle, connecting everyone in the room. The collaborative poem was written in English so all could understand, and yet it showed the strength of each student in standing up for their own identity and refusing to be defined. Though many felt that the colonial language caused barriers, it also served as the tool to strengthen the solidarity in the room.
The poem will be digitally unveiled by the Afghan Student Association and Bastan on their Facebook page.