Fatima Al Matar

When did you start writing poetry?

I started writing poetry in my early teens.

What was the first poem you wrote that you thought was good?

I can’t really remember the first poem I wrote which I thought was good as I started writing quite young and my standards have changed dramatically since then. However there was a line I wrote a very long time ago which I still find intriguing the poem treated the feeling of loneliness, and the line was:

‘loneliness is a cowardly feeling it only comes out in the dark’

Do you prefer writing poetry to other forms of writing, and if so, why?

Yes, I prefer writing poetry to other forms of writing as I find that it gives me more space to express myself. Poetry is also in my opinion the only form of literature which allows you to say something but mean something completely different.

Could you please tell our readers what your collection is about, in no more than 100 words?

The Heart and the Subsidiary is a small collection of poems that reflect on a woman’s experience on motherhood, love, abuse and loss. An emotional and feminine approach to the relationships between mother and daughter, and the relationship between man and woman. Every poem in the collection draws an image of the woman’s heart in its changing ever evolving forms.

 Poetry for me is so personal, unlike novels, you really get a sense of who the person is, would you agree?

I agree that poetry is very personal. Every poem I have ever written is a reflection of myself even when it was clearly stating someone else’s story, as a poet I sometimes adopt someone else’s sadness or grief and make it my own in the poem, this is why I still find it challenging to accept when my poems are rejected or criticised.

 With that in mind what do you think your poetry says about you?

My poems are very serious and they all reflect on true life experiences which I believe mirror the writer who is herself an emotional but realistic person; she is constantly questioning life and philosophising about relationships and how she is affected by them.

What makes a good poem?

A good poem in my opinion is made of two very important ingredients; the first is the uniqueness of the idea behind the poem or the idea subject the poem. The second is the beauty of the language by which the unique idea is conveyed.  

In your respective collections you talk about women, motherhood, loss and grieving, family and growing up – such deep deep stuff. Overladen with emotions. Is writing poetry therapeutic? 

Writing poetry can be therapeutic, I personally find it to be so, however this is not always the case, a lot of poets write to simply treat the subject at hand and they do it so well without finding the process providing any therapy. Because The Heart and the Subsidiary is my first collection I probably unconsciously wanted to unload a lot of difficult emotions I was personally dealing with i.e. my complicated relationship with my mother which had me questioning my own ability to be a good mother, and a lot of anger towards my abusive ex-husband, now that they are in a book it almost feels as if I have boxed them and put them aside. I can’t say that the process has helped me to overcome them completely but it has helped to a certain extent.

What’s your favourite poem and who is your favourit poet?

My favourite poem is “In Defence of Adultery” By Julia Copus. And my favourite poet is Edna St. Vincent Millay.

From your collection what do you think is your best work?

It’s hard to say which is the best work in my collection, as there are two types of poems in my opinion, a poem that works very well on the page, however is not necessarily very powerful when performed, and there’s the poem that is so powerful when performed however doesn’t quiet stand out on the page. My poem “Lessons” has had a lot of recognition as a quiet well written poem on the page. My poem “Redundant” on the other hand has had a lot of interest when performed as it is a very powerful hard hitting one when read out loud.

Should a poet live a life of isolation?

Absolutely not, a poet unlike a novelist should not live in isolation in my opinion, a novelist has an idea of what makes a good book and so simply sits quietly in his/her office away from life’s distraction to pour the idea on a number of pages, and thus isolation is a requirement. However in the case of poets we get all of our inspiration from life and the people around us, if we don’t interact with people, love them, hate them, miss them, need them, envy them, fight them and sympathise with them we simply have no material to work with. All the incredible eulogies, love, loss and war poems written are a solid proof that poets need to feel in order to write. I personally found the best way to overcome a writer’s block is to go out and talk to people, making new friends, falling in love, listening to another woman’s extraordinary birth experience; they all inspire me and help me write.    

 What advice would you give to an aspiring poet?

The best advice given to me was “Read” and I found it absolutely essential for becoming a good poet. Read what is already written, I know that there’s a lot of poetry out there, and it’s difficult to decide where to start, do read the greats i.e. Blake, Yeats, Larkin, Bishop etc, However always familiarize yourself with what is considered good poetry today by looking up poetry journals which are quiet affordable in comparison to books, and they can give you a clear idea on what is considered as successful poetry in today’s market and also gives you a variety of writing styles as opposed to a collection which is the style of one poet only.  Simply read whatever is made available to you.

Born in Kuwait October 1980, Fatima moved to the UK in pursue of her postgraduate education. Fatima lives in Coventry, her poetry has appeared in several Poetry Journals such as Acumen, The Journal, Further Monthly, and Angelic Dynamo. Her poem ‘Lessons’ has been shortlisted for the Torbay Poetry Award. Fatima published her first poetry collection entitled ‘The Heart and the Subsidiary’ which is available for purchase on Amazon, Google, Waterstones and the Author House website. Fatima has won Wigan’s Poetry Slam 2010 and Milton Keynes’ Poetry Kapow slam 2010.