Amanda Meader: I found your piece People Eat Chickpeas Bathed in Vinegar to be very evocative and moving. What was the inspiration behind it?
Zarin Hamid: That poem came about last summer, in the heat and humidity of New Jersey, and it was really just a result of longing across space for Kabul in the summertime, full of sun and dust, but also abundance of fruits and vegetables and cool mountain air once you get outside the city. The weather in the summer is very similar to southern California, even the landscape is similar, and I was reaching for that feeling of happiness of countless times I was stuck in the horrendous traffic of that city, but right next to rose bushes planted in between opposite going lanes, which in itself should give you a picture of the duality of the city, and of the people – nature loving people with their lives and their land ravaged by war. And overall, Afghanistan is a large part of my consciousness, and often my poetry unashamedly treads back to it.
AM: How does your professional work inform your writing?
ZH: My professional work is focused on, in broad terms, values of peace and gender equality, and often so is my writing. But what I often tend to write about has been with me as long as I have been able to think consciously and critically. Maybe my understanding of what I write about has improved over the years, and that is linked to my academic and professional work which has made me grow as well.
I don’t think the professional work informs my writing though – I think it’s the other way around. And I think I have given myself the freedom to go professionally where I am most moved or feel most ethically drawn to, and that often tends to be related to the natural environment, social justice issues, or international events. My critical consciousness first woke up as a young refugee child, and seeing my parents struggle, and trying to make sense of why we were in that situation. This has forced me to look outward, to the world, and to the connections of why and how our world is the way it is.
AM: What is your biggest challenge as a writer?
ZH: Finding the time to write, and to really give it the care and attention it deserves.
AM: Do you have a designated writing space? What special object do you keep on or near your writing space to inspire you?
ZH: I don’t have a writing space – I tend to write in any place, and I don’t have any objects that particularly inspire me to write. In the last few years, I’ve started typing on the computer and usually only use paper when away from a computer or a phone. In that case, I end up using whatever bits of paper are around. In the summertime, on long lazy days, I do love to write outside, though.
AM: What are you working on now?
ZH: I’m editing and organizing previous material and I’m hoping to create a few more pieces this summer, because honestly, there is a limit to editing and you really need to just write until something decent comes out of the mess.
Amanda Abbie Meader was born and raised in Maine, where she returned to practice law after graduating from Cornell Law School in 2004. By day Amanda is a staff attorney for a non-profit organization; by night she is the wife of a very patient man and the mother of two ridiculously spoiled Boston Terriers. Reading and writing infuse her with peace and energy in a way that nothing else can, and she is constantly dreaming up ways to devote more of each day to pursuing her true passion.