Ask the Author: Siham Karami
What would you like readers to know about you?
I would like my readers to know that I’ve lived through some very harrowing and seemingly impossible times, when sometimes it felt like I was hardwired for difficulty, which has made me feel and understand the pain of others in a non-intrusive way. Poetry is my main obsession, but I’ve also written songs, played the piano, guitar, cello, and string bass, and was a visual artist, at the moment focusing on photography. My youngest son says I’m like a duck, looking into the distance and thinking about something else entirely different than what we’re living in, in a place he calls my pond. Poetry is that place for me, a pond where I can float, contemplate, find peace, even as I describe difficult events or feelings. I’m also an older writer, and hope this encourages other people that it’s never to late to take on a large important project.
What is To Love the River about for those who haven’t read it?
As a poetry collection, it doesn’t follow a storyline exactly, although the sections, inspired by certain Yi Jing (I Ching) hexagrams, do reveal a kind of life story: difficulty at the beginning (sprouting), the wanderer, thunder, the well (memories and deep connections), and return/ tipping point. So in that sense it is about life, how it can twist and turn, how there is great suffering, but also triumph and redemption. A poet/ friend said it could be called “To Love, the River.”
What has been your inspiration for writing To Love the River?
It was inspired by a major poetry book contest, which I didn’t win, but which got me to put together a selection of poems I felt would create a meaningful whole and show the range of style in my work, which is largely formal. I write ghazals, villanelles, sonnets, blank verse, sestinas, and other forms, as well as free verse, all of which are represented in this book. I view form as a kind of externally imposed limitation that galvanizes the creative process, bringing about unusual and much more intense and satisfying results. In fact, many of my seemingly tight metrical sonnets began as sprawling free-verse poems that I sonnetized to create a more compact, heightened, and satisfying experience for the reader.
What was your favorite scene or part of To Love the River to write?
Because it is a poetry collection, I would choose one and say “Labor Day” was the most fulfilling poem to write, as it brought together the pain from a broken relationship with a scene from my family’s house in Seattle which had a view of Puget Sound and a few islands as well as distant mountains that always seemed to be floating. It took months, off and on, to get right. I can also say that I enjoyed arranging the poems in a meaningful order; in a way it was almost like watching my own life unfold in a new and imaginative way, since many of these poems reflectmy own real life experiences but in a more lyrical and concentrated form.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Definitely I was inspired by a large number of poets, and since I am a child of the 60’s, these included E. E. Cummings (whose name can use capitals, contrary to customary use), Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, and later Kwame Dawes, Joy Harjo, Agha Shahid Ali, Wisława Szymborska (a huge favorite), and really so many others it’s impossible to fairly name them. When I was younger I loved Melville’s Moby Dick, for the rich and nautical language, and an old Sea Scout manual I bought from a used bookstore. Now it seems I’m inspired by a new author almost daily, as reading is a process of continual discovery.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
The most important factor is motivation, which really could be called obsession. Writing, especially poetry, demands obsession, where the writer really needs to write this book, and will cut out the time it takes to do it no matter what. Otherwise a million things can come between the writer and their book, from time, relationships, or career, to housecleaning, pets, hobbies, anything. An obsession often goes hand-in-hand with a vision of what one wants to say or to convey by writing. This helps overcome one’s personal demons, such as procrastination or competing obsessions, among many others. So if you decide you want to write a book, be sure it’s coming from a place deep inside, and then never give up.
Where can your book be purchased?
On Amazon, here:
(And if you like it, please leave a review.)
Or the publisher’s website, here: https://kelsaybooks.com/products/to-love-the-river
Or if you’d like a signed copy, you can follow me on Twitter @sihamkarami, and I will follow you so you can send me a dm; or by email sihamkarami AT gmail DOT com and request a copy.
You can find me on social media:
My Goodreads author page:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14082890.Siham_Karami
My Facebook author page:
Or you can check out my poetry blog:
The cover of my book is from a painting by Hilma af Klint, a Swedish mystic and pioneer in modern abstract art who was only recently recognized for her many amazing paintings. Interestingly, she wanted her work to be displayed in a spiral temple, but requested before she died that it not be shown to the public for 20 years. The Guggenheim Museum in New York, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was commissioned to be a “temple of the spirit” and was actually spiral in design. Her show at the Guggenheim then is a fulfillment of her dream. The link is here: https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/hilma-af-klint