Hello Everyone, I think I am pleased with this conversation. It is a long time I had a conversation with someone across the pond. Today I have the pleasure to invite to CENTERSPREAD a poet and author. He is a poet I find kind, warm and with a sense of the world. I have quite a lot to say so I will not waste your time.
Let us read the poems of Imran Khan before we have our conversation
Witness to Marriage
Alone between the bunting,
youth’s echo shone
through the pleats of a wedding dress, hung,
lone mast, dead centre of a theatre hall
gaffed wide to hold royalists
cheering rule Britannia in their plastic Harry and Megan masks.
The veil was split, you nodded when she asked “was it just the once?”
It wasn’t, you just don’t mention the other one, hanging in a wardrobe.
Life’s a glass of red spilt in youth, best disguised with a bouquet.
Time took its path across those two dresses. All day,
the only words I heard you say were ‘oh yes, I was a size twenty-four waist’
and the dress didn’t move,
it hovered at the entrance, blocking the path of forgotten,
nobody brought a camera,
you plead your wardrobe rings the bells.
(First published on ucity Review)
A Child Testifies, Rage
I find the court bundles,
find the judge who
smeared my face with war paint,
fingered my veins for Pakistani valves like
my blood could be distributing homemade bombs.
In light that mother’s boyfriend
My granny taught me to dress her trees
with ballooning chapattis.
Has the name Imran Khan
I count twenty-five years next month
since granny told mum, “Ja,
jaldi.” I didn’t know what she meant
What Pakistan was in my spirit
was not purposefully
And taking into account his connections in Pakistan
My twenty-ninth birthday arrives without my footprints passing Istanbul.
My past has been traded for the soil our judge defiles.
I spit a full mile to his ground.
We must secure the child’s future here.
They try to leave an animal inside me
for the doctors, schools and courts to see
If mother takes child back to doctor
There is rage in the unmade doctors’ appointments.
Alleging physical harm against the father
There is rage in the bruises she comes back with.
Even where the child testifies
There is rage in each goodbye.
Father takes the child.
(First published on Seventh Wave)
Our horizon died easily,
but I still finger the splice of it. Your
departure echoed along the fringe reef,
my denial stirred grass
beneath the surface.
Now I cling to corals
like they’re answers to questions
which fill me like wine.
Waiting for the sky to open,
we are pounding water
no longer bound to one sea.
(First published on Across the Margin)
What did you think? I felt it was not going to be enough to just post his poems, I wanted to know Imran a bit more, so we had this conversation
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself
I live in Dorset with my partner, our two children and two pet gerbils called Artemis and Renfield. Aside from writing, I work for Amnesty U.K, delivering workshops and assemblies about social injustices within Britain and art-based resistances around the world.
2. How long have you been writing poetry?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was about five years old when I was commissioned by my sister to write poetry for her boyfriends. She claimed the poems as her own in return for a couple of packets of chocolate biscuits. I’d love that kind of remuneration now.
3. Your poem, ‘A child testifies..Rage’ was painful for me to read. Why did you write it?
A Child Testifies, Rage was painful to write. In Britain, there have been a great many injustices in the family courts. Court proceedings aren’t public, and judges are able to act with impunity. In an alarming number of cases, mothers have been silenced by threats of having their child taken away. The fear of their child being placed with an abusive father is crippling. After ‘Fathers for Justice’, institutions, such as CAFCASS, showed widespread biases towards fathers. CAFCASS was built with the stated aim of furthering children’s voices, but in actuality do not speak with the children, and do not take time to learn of their experiences and feelings. The workers simply use their own outdated assumptions to make decisions. This is particularly alarming in cases of child abuse. Clearly, I cannot speak for all proceedings, I am sure there were numerous cases that went against fathers which shouldn’t have. But the main issue I wanted to address here is how judges’ personal prejudices have become dangerously powerful within British family courts. These include racial prejudices and gender prejudices, which is what I personally discovered and wished to communicate through this poem.
4. You have a cynical attitude towards marriage, is that just a wrong sensing from my end?
Haha – I’m actually getting married in December, so I hope for myself and my partner’s sake there is no cynicism. This poem came from an experience of walking into a theatre that was broadcasting Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on a big screen. The place was packed with royalists and decorated with bunting. It was a carnival atmosphere. But, hanging up in the centre of the hall was a wedding dress. An elderly lady hung it there – it was her own. Nobody spoke to her about it, it was just seen as a decoration, which I found very sad and poignant.
5. In ‘Cleaving’, you seem to mock ‘tradition’ of rigid concepts and clear divides based on religion, or tribe, in essence, a cry against bigotry. How do you want this poem to be received across the board old and young?
I think that’s a very interesting reading of the poem – far more interesting than I had in mind when writing it. The poem is about ruptures and partings – this could be of a romantic relationship, of a tribe or of our world more generally. I think I’d want young and older readers to read it according to their own personal knowledge and experience, as you have – I really do think poems become far more evocative in that way.
6. How vibrant is the poetry scene in your corner of the world?
In Bournemouth, our poetry scene isn’t very vibrant, which is a shame. But the transnational nature of poetry has helped massively – hearing from people reading my poems in countries around Africa has been an amazing experience. The vibrancy of the community online has made up for the limitations of my own town, and I’ve learnt a lot from this community. I feel I’ve been a bit critical to Bournemouth – we do have lovely beaches and the brilliant chef, Rick Stein, has a restaurant here. We also have several mini-golf courses in the area. There are just lots of distractions from writing poetry
7. Are you into other forms of writing?
Absolutely – I love theatre and short stories. I recently learned that my two-year-old son used many of my novels as part of a soup recipe, where he pours water over them to make a rich stock. My bookcase has since become quite limited. Edward Albee and Mark Twain are my favourite writers outside of poetry.
8. Has your poetry collection been published as a collection?
Not yet, but I’m hoping to have a chapbook published next year. My little girl did something really sweet for my birthday – she printed out all my published poems and arranged them for me. It really got me thinking about getting a collection together.
9. What types of reception have your poems received?
Really positive – it’s been such a boost to have had such kind feedback. The poetry market is tough, and I’ve had my fair share of rejections from publishers, so when poems are published and people take time to engage with them and get in touch, it is lovely.
10, If you do get questions from this blog, will you be willing to answer them?
Absolutely, I’d love to answer any questions. If there are any hard ones, I’ll ask my two-year-old to answer.
11. Tell us if there is any work in progress?
There’s always work in progress – I am always working on poems that have been rejected and thinking up ideas for new ones. A bigger project I’m working on is a children’s book that should be written in the next six months. I’m also working on my wedding vows.
12′. Thank you for talking to us on Centerspread
It’s been a pleasure – thank you so much for getting in touch!