Samaa Ahmed

SM-h_O_ztamaa is a transnational/diasporic Pakistani artist and poet. She blogs about politics, pop-culture, and post-colonial feminism at wearivebeen.com and is the founder of ARTBOX Toronto.

What was your entrance into writing poetry and what made you want to stay?

I used to write a lot of poetry growing up, especially when I was an angsty teenager. It was such a great way for me to get my feelings out, and although it was really melodramatic stuff, I enjoy re-reading it and appreciate how productive of a release it was. After a really long gap, I started writing poetry again through Outburst in October 2015.

 

I was really nervous and apprehensive to start writing again, especially because I compared myself to other people and got pretty intimidated by the abundance of talent around me. I would scrutinize my work so much that I would stop before I even started. It was only when we had to submit a piece for the anthology that I decided to look through the poems I had written over the past few months to see if I could scrounge something together. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I looked back at my pieces, and I ended up submitting two poems without editing.

I consider myself a creative – I have a strong background in and passion for visual art – and my hopes going into Homebound were to diversify myself a bit.¬†This program has given me a lot more confidence in trusting my instincts, even if I don’t really feel like a “poet” as such. It has challenged me to be more vulnerable and to be okay with not being “perfect”. Art is always subjective, and poetry is no different. If one or two people relate to my work then that’s amazing, but ultimately it’s a personal process: I create works for myself to enjoy.

What are some of your favourite places in Toronto?

I love the Toronto Public Libraries. I am such a stan for the TPL!

I really enjoy lounging around at the Christie Pits and walking around the Mount Pleasant Cemetary – they’re both so beautiful and peaceful. I love creative spaces like 401 Richmond Street (and all of the beautiful galleries), Artscape Youngplace, SteamLABS (come check it out!), OCAD, and the AGO.

I live in the Annex, and there are tons of cute places close by. I really enjoy hanging out at Bampot, and I also spend a fair amount of time at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) – both the Annex and Spadina locations.

OMG – how could I forget? I box, so I spend a lot of time at Paul Brown Boxfit. Boxing is the actual best.

I like Scarborough – so much delicious food! Also, the Peel Art Museum and Gallery (PAMA) in Brampton is lovely!

I’m fairly new here – I only moved in 2014 – so I am still exploring places. I haven’t been to the Islands, but I really want to go! It’s on my list for this summer.

Where do you feel most comfortable and at home?

I have moved around quite a lot, so the concept of home is more of a feeling than a specific location. I feel most at home with friends and family, no matter where in the world I am. Good food makes me feel at home – especially home-cooked Pakistani food, or delicious Arabic food (shawarmas and shish tawook especially). Sipping chai makes me feel at home. Curling up in bed with a good book makes me feel at home. Being in nature, especially near the sea, makes me feel at home. “Home” is basically happiness – anywhere I feel comfortable and happy can become home.