“Literature can break down any divisions” Sakina Mohammed, award-winning Sri Lankan writer of My Poetic Place.

Sri Lankan authors are known for their compelling penmanship that never draws far from Sri Lankan roots, rich in culture and Sri Lankan traditions. Here’s a list of the ten best books by Sri Lankan authors that will take you down a road of rich cultures and past societies! Most of them write prose, but a few very special ones have crossed the island’s salty ring of water with gifted skills in poetry. Sakina Mohammed is one of them. The Asian Review is pleased to introduce Sakina, who believes in the might of Literature for reconciliation and social cohesion. 

Poets are not born; they are made by life on this rough earth. Can you tell our readers about who you are and what was the impetus of that?

I am Sakina, a written and spoken poet on social media, publishing my debut book “MY POETIC PLACE” soon. I write on motivational subjects, life realities and mental and emotional wellbeing. My journey as a poet started very young as an observant, sensitive and creative child; my poems back in my teens were about nature, my surroundings, emotions and of a curious mind trying to understand life. I had this little booklet of poetry which I still hold dear today, which were corrected by my Literature teacher-PRICELESS MEMORIES INDEED. Cut to today: a full-time mom, experimenting with my interests and passions; after over a decade of being deviated from my love for poetry, only writing very occasionally, I found the inspiration to start writing again around one and half years back. It was after my second child, a phase when I really needed to connect with my inner self. Poetry came to my life as a form of therapy and mode of self-expression. At a point when I was struggling with my overwhelming emotions, I realised capturing them into my words was helping me deal with them better. That is when I began my blog and shared it with my family and friends; with all the appreciation I received, I decided to move onto social media and share my poems with the world.

Your poems largely reflect on human emotions and life. What is your opinion on the strength of poetry in human behaviour change? What is your contribution in this regard so far?

Very early on, I realised the impact my poetry had on the reader because, as mentioned earlier, I do write about human emotions and these emotions are such complex things most of us struggle with. People resonate with what I am trying to convey. As time passed, I started touching on life realities and motivational themes. It was more like me cheering myself on; the positivity again touched them. I started writing about self-love and acceptance as I realised how many of us, including myself, suffer from complexities. It was time to address the importance of loving and respecting our own selves without falling for the trap of comparisons. It was during the pandemic I decided to make motivational videos. The response has been heartwarming! To have the power and capacity to even impact one mind, bring hope to a heart, smile to a face, uplift even a single struggling person: is a blessing I feel. My book, too, is filled with such messages, and I do hope it touches many souls.

The Asian Review has emerged as a platform to connect the continents and counter the compartmentalisation in the literary world into countries, continents, races and religions. We strongly believe that cross-cultural Literature is the bridge between the separated worlds, people and ideologies. Does your work represent the same ideology? How? 

Absolutely I do!! Literature can break down any divisions, I believe. Through social media and technology, I have met people I shall never physically meet and been to places I may physically never reach, that too in the midst of a pandemic, through the monotony and routine of motherhood and domestic routine! My poetry took me there because when two people share their thoughts and words, they immediately get connected to their hearts; it’s an instant connection. I have met the most amazing people from all walks of life, all parts of the world, all age groups, beliefs and different styles of expressions: the one thing that binds all of us is our emotions, and that’s pure power, selfless Literature holds!

You have won several awards for your work, and you have earned a wider readership beyond the frontiers of Sri Lanka. Our readers would love to hear about your views about the award on the stage and awarded by the readership. 

Accolades add value to the journey, overall it brings a great sense of achievement, but my view on it is that there is no greater award than having my work read and appreciated. The reason I mentioned even earlier about self-less, pure Literature is that as in all areas of life, there seems to be a certain level of corruption in Literature, too and clearly, the reason for it is its peoples over-enthusiasm towards awards. Genuine awards and accolades are wonderful but always be aware of the authenticity and validity of the award. Above all, keep writing, keep sharing, and the people who read and give a genuine comment or appreciation is nothing short of an award too.

You are a woman, wife, mother, poet. There are hundred-thousands women who want to follow the path you may have taken—a successful writer. Tell them, as a woman, how you overcome the challenges in life in order to enhance your creative skills and contribute to social change.

I would just like to say there is no shortcut or magic to it; whether it’s writing or any other thing in this world, the only word is consistency. Being a mother is a job already, and writing takes a lot of concentration and a certain level of peace of mind, for that keep a specific time convenient for you; personally, I have sacrificed a lot of sleep as I find nights the most peaceful and that’s when the writer in me wakes up mostly. Just keep a time and write, little or a lot, good or bad, just stick to it. Secondly, capture the random thoughts, don’t ignore the unexpected beautiful thought: write it down immediately and for that, make sure to keep something handy to note down; I find my mobile the most convenient to capture those random fleeting ideas. The most important thing is don’t put it off; waiting for the perfect moment is a myth! Start, stick to it, share because that is how the motivation comes to keep going, participate in competitions, challenges or any other opportunities to grow and make a change.

Has any piece of your writing made you cry? Can you tell us about that?

Yes, many, I would say! I do attach a lot of sentiments to my poems, so some do make me cry a bit when I read them later on. Especially the ones I wrote about my children. They are charged with a lot of emotions. Even if the poem does have a bit of a forlorn feeling to it, I do try to add some positivity to it and end it with a hopeful message.

What is your most favourite work among the poems you have written so far? Can you tell us about the story behind it?

It’s my poem titled. SELF CENTRED LOVE VS SELF LOVE!

Never confuse your mind between self Centred love and self-love

While one is destructive, the latter means LIFE, LIGHT AND LOVE!!

Well, I was a part of a discussion once on love; it was actually a virtual event celebrating Valentines Day. As an advocate on self-love, I did put across my opinions on how important it is to love one’s own self, which was met with the debate that loving others and the people in our lives are more important – a mother love for her child or how if Mother Theresa thought about loving herself could she love so selflessly. 

It was written later as a reply to the above discussion, and the message is very clear, trying to give from an empty vessel is damaging; self-love is not ego or destruction but fulfilment and contentment in one’s own existence enough; to give from a filled vessel!

There is a notion that poetry is dying, and fiction follows its destiny slowly, and the narrative non-fiction emerges through the ashes of burnt fiction and anthologies. What is your opinion about that narrative?

Well, we have entered the digital era where choices in all things are evolving; with the advancements in graphics on screen, even readership is changing in terms of taste. These things are inevitable, I feel! Traditional Literature is coming to a position of diminution, but that being said, I also add there are plenty of poetry lovers out in the world, and it is nowhere near extinction as yet. The important thing is to know where and how to network; there are plenty of platforms that encourage and enjoy the true essence of Literature, so it is again simply about right participation and consistency.

Nature, and writers, or/and coffee and writers. Where do you find yourself? Can you tell our readers about a typical writing time for you and how you usually find your writing space?

Nature and writers, that would be! My inspiration at most comes from nature and my surroundings. For me, the most important thing is to have peace and quiet and currently, as much as I crave to write in the midst of nature, the only place I can seem to function in is my bed!!! Unless I am capturing a random thought, most of my work done on prompts and challenges has been done at night after my children sleep, and all my duties are done. That’s when the writer awakens!

The Indian subcontinent (South Asian Region) has the world’s highest number of review sites, publishing houses, book agents, and writers of all genres. According to you, what are the advantages and disadvantages of one’s publishing journey?

Advantages would be the opportunities to get published, recognised, appreciated are abundant. There are plenty of doors that appear once we decide to venture out, but the flip side is that competition leads to a certain level of marketing gimmicks. Therefore it requires one to be aware of the authenticity and pricing procedures and stuff before committing with any entity. Be observant and make genuine decisions; there is plenty of room for growth and exposure.

As a poet who has been published and awarded by diverse entities, what is your advice to the budding youth in the literary world?

I just have one piece of advice: don’t give up! In the beginning, it is difficult to find the right crowd but hold on to the passion and vision. Keep writing and sharing. Writing is something that requires one to be alert all the time, observe, read, keep something handy at all times to jot down random ideas, take part in competitions because recognition and appreciation give the inspiration to keep writing, and it’s an opportunity to meet more likeminded people. On days you will find no inspiration to write, but don’t give up on this art because truly writers can change the world, and that is the power of the pen.

Writing is as addictive as caffeine; what is your next venture? Can you give us a clue about your future projects?

My most anticipated venture is my debut book. This is the one thing I have always dreamt of, so it is a big deal. It has certainly taken longer than expected, but I have attempted to make it as comprehensive as possible, touching subjects from all walks of life. The title of the book is “MY POETIC PLACE: The journey to self-discovery”, and the theme of the book is life realities, motivational subjects and mental and emotional wellbeing! It is to be released soon through a Sri Lankan publishing house as well as on digital platforms. So yes, that is the next step for me right now, and super excited!

Any parting words?

 I like to thank The Asian Review website for giving me this opportunity to share my humble story. All of us are living our own stories, and sometimes it becomes essential to put it out in the world because we may never know what about our struggles and experiences can inspire or uplift another person. So yes, thank you again, and much love and positivity to all of you who have read through this interview.

Categories: Interviews

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