LEILA AL SAMARRAI
OPA (Our Poetry Archive) – The Poetry Journal IS AN INTERNATIONL WEB JOURNAL PUBLISHED EVERY MONTH
FRIDAY, APRIL 1, 2022
NilavroNill Talking With
Poet Of The Month
LEILA AL SAMARRAI
NILAVRONILL: Why do literature and poetry in particular interest you so much? Please give us some idea about your own perception of literature or poetry in general.
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: For me, literature is the liberated language of a liberated man/woman. Their journey takes place through created nature, but they do not travel like a tourist touring fantastic archipelagos in search of themselves. They create these archipelagos with their very movement.
An example is my favorite book Dante’s Inferno. Not only does Dante, like tourists, tour different worlds – degrees of consciousness, but he especially
emphasizes the ethical moment without which his work does not exist, and the aesthetic value of Dante’s work goes hand in hand with his ethical attitude. It is clear that hell must be experienced until the last round. Aesthetics has a devastating effect on conformism, aesthetics instead of comfort offers real joy – and literature is intuition and imagination spread in time and space. Aesthetically, it arises from the undisturbed action of force, expressed as the free movement of perception. My aspiration is to look to the abstraction in search of the inner core since pure poetic energy resides in it. I care about that energy, especially when it comes to destroying and visualizing the experiential matrix and everything it senses and creates. I would say that this kind of sensation is unusual and innovative. That is why it is attractive for every curiosity.
NILAVRONILL: How do you relate your own self existence with your literary life in one hand, and the time around you, in the other.
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: What can I say? These feral times are not all too friendly to poets. But neither are we to it hence I hope that when it passes (and transcience is ever-present), there will be enough poetic testimonials about who we were and what times we lived in.
NILAVRONILL: Do you believe creative souls flourish more in turmoil than in peace?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: Yes. Art grows stronger in difficult times if we learn to preserve reason, and that we must ignore its dark virtues and celebrate its power and wonder. Our world is poisoned by misery, and it is as if we are wallowing in it. It is in vain to weep over the mind, it is enough to make an effort around it. There is enough strength of character to prepare fruit in the winter of the world.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think in this age of information and technology the dimensions of literature have been largely extended beyond our preconceived ideas about literature in general?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: Most certainly a bigger audience, in wider circles.. who can nonetheless distil the crux of it all. The Internet is a Babylon where any author can both add and take away a brick laid, depending on one’s affinities.
NILAVRONILL: Now, in this changing scenario we would like to know from your own life experiences as a poet, writer and a creative soul: How do you respond to this present time?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: You need to be a “nerd” to be a poet, that is without a doubt, and without regard for any monetary compensation. Living off of poetry is not all that doable, and success is, evidently, a category always in flux. As far as I’m concerned, I find it natural to express myself in verse, and whether I am far from any kind of recognition, well yes, I am. On the other hand, being recognized in Serbia means picking up all of the provinciality around you and publishing it. Hence I want to be recognized outside of my country’s borders because that is indeed recognition – proper recognition.
NILAVRONILL: Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? And is this an incentive for or an obstacle against becoming a truly international writer?
LEILA SAMARRAI: I come from a mixed marriage (my mother is Serbian – Greek, and my father is Iraqi) The combination of different cultures has certainly influenced me to some extent, as well as the cultural heritage of (ancient) Iraq. It is possible that the Eastern spirit is smoldering in me, in collision with the Western, modern and materialistic world. It would be romantic to understand that I am an unusual person in whom two opposing cultures, religions, customs are united, that in the collision of East and West, unconsciously, through veins, verses intertwine, and Eastern stories flow … and they last. That the curses and martyrdoms of both worlds are united in me. But I share the antithesis of the tribe, I do not belong to any city, no road, no region, I do not come from Europe or Arabia What comes to my mind is that many would like to see me somewhere without realizing that the beauty of my entire “defiant” personality is primarily in my cosmopolitan spirit that belongs to no one. I am a stranger among people, with the feeling that I do not belong to anyone. My Arab origin is traumatically disputed in Serbia and my Serbian origin in the Arab world. I am a stranger, hiding in the shadow of the night and wandering between the walls, whose fear cannot be smelled, because I have reached the extreme of memory, in a life that is a collection of sad and tragic stories, not one, but more lives, not omitting any part, and what I am writing is just choosing the hidden to be shown on the canvas of creation. In that and such a world, I created my own ancient literary homeland in poetry and prose that are often intertwined. Therefore, my literature is marked by fragmentation, confusion, soaked in anxiety, and non-belonging to both nations. In that way, my mark determined the only safe place for me, and that is the place between the worlds, the place where everything is connected that is otherwise separate, because limits exist only in limited minds. And who, if not a poet, would be able to bridge the insurmountable, touch the untouchable and bring the divided worlds closer. So why shouldn’t this be true for others?
NILAVRONILL: Now, if we try to understand the tradition and modernism, do you think literature can play a pivotal role in it? If so, how? Again, how can an individual writer relate himself or herself to the tradition and to modernism?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: Tradition? – Which creator relies on tradition? He relies on the creative force, not on the dusty paths that others once walked. If a creator bows to another creator, he bows to himself, there is no distance, no humility. What is unconventional is the way out of the vicious circle, the abandonment of the rational order. The purpose of life is truth and it is only tested in truth. And those who were crucified by ideology and tradition and burned at the stake knew that God is pain and that facing pain is such an unconventional thing for a life inspired by conformism -that step that replaces lies with truth.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think literary criticism has much to do with the development of a poet and the true understanding of his or her poetry?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: Criticism is a mediator between the reader and the work of art, in a way that asks us how and in what way this work of art communicates with me, what it tells me about society, and even about myself. If it does not exist, society will end the dialogue, and without dialogue, we cannot talk about any cultural progression. I believe that no artistic or cultural scene can exist without professional criticism, although there is no literary critic to whom a monument has been erected in his honor. It is necessary to expand the scope of art criticism in order to be more dynamic, diverse, courageous, and to include educational institutions in this process. There isn’t even a Serbian literary scene, nor is it allowed to exist. Critics are at their positions, established authors at their own, primarily political, then literary, or artistic. In short, literature in Serbia only exists at the level of gossip. It is a complete systematic collapse here, and with zero respect for the author and copyright, nothing will get better and Serbia will remain a literary black hole, irrespective of the vast number of people willing and capable of writing something. In such cultural darkness, everything will become a critique, everyone will be a critic and a nightmare about the space of personal interests will come true. I shudder when I read ‘thunderous applause, or, for example, descriptions of something ‘beautifully conceived’ or ‘phenomenal’ because it means nothing, but I also consider radical ‘critical’ attacks that stem solely from personal experience to be trivial and destructive. Everyone suddenly knows how to assess how flat, for example, the characters are, as if I were now writing about clogged arteries and suggesting surgery.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: The artist himself can abstract circumstances, act as if they do not exist. No power, no regime, no social catastrophe can take away the joy of creation, and that is the point. Everything that the world created, and that was sublime and beautiful, was never the fruit of a rational approach. That is why nothing that is sublime and beautiful can be rationally explained That problem, we see, arises forever. There are people who determine the suitability and unsuitability of a work of art. Suddenly, those who talk about the crime become guilty, not those who committed the crime. Things turn around and suddenly a normal society looks like a totalitarian one, life in a city looks like life in an occupied city. When the Nazis asked Picasso why he painted Guernica, he said: I did not paint Guernica, but you Picasso was the personification of an artist faced with the possibility of destroying his work forever – there is also the story of the monstrous art. Unsuitable artists are an eternal problem of society
NILAVRONILL: Do you think people in general actually bother about literature? Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: There is a Latin saying: Beware of a man who has read only one book. The age of consumerism has created a world where we solve every problem or affliction of the spirit by shopping. Capitalism has definitely done its thing, so shopping has become a kind of pleasure, psychotherapy, a part of the day that makes our lives meaningful. The fact is, we have become slaves to shopping, things, and marketing. Film, television, the Internet – all these are media that offer content to modern man in a more interesting, and perhaps easier, way, which greatly influences the fact that the book is read less and less, and more and more viewed from afar. The statistics on how few people in Serbia read books, visit bookstores and fairs or even have their own library is devastating, and such data are especially devastating when we learn that the annual membership fee in libraries is only 400 dinars and that we can always borrow books from friends. What to say? Artists in the age of technology and the fast pace of life are made up of a handful of like-minded people, and only 3 percent of people visit the theater. Although e-book reading is on the rise, there are still fans of the smell of paper and print, so the ratio is half-and-half. Although, it doesn’t matter how or what, it is important to read and enrich our lives in the most beautiful way.
NILAVRONILL: We would like to know the factors and the peoples who have influenced you immensely in the growing phase of your literary life.
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: My grandmother, Gorica Trajković, a painter and book lover, recommended books to me to read. I have been reading since I was four. Emil Zola, Gogol, French and Russian classics, mostly. I was amazed by Zola’s brutal, in fact, life storytelling technique in which, as if I were present in the novel “L’Assommoir”, I followed the ruin, the loss of moral compass, the tragic fate of the heroine to the end, starvation, dying … as a dog. It is similar to Flaubert. I could almost taste the poison in my mouth, through Madame Bovary. The writer followed all the phases of her poisoning to the very end, I don’t know exactly how many pages, quite… Life. The way life flows.
NILAVRONILL: How would you evaluate your contemporaries and what are your aspirations for or expectation from the younger generation?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: The world of prose and poetry is split into various sects which do not recognize the quality and poetic approach of their peers. What will come in the next hundred years from all of this, I shudder to think.
NILAVRONILL: Humanity has suffered immensely in the past, and is still suffering around the world. We all know it well. But are you hopeful about our future?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: I believe in man, which is why I say Maybe where there surely must be a Yes.
NILAVRONILL: What role can literature in general play to bring a better day for every human being?
LEILA AL SAMARRAI: It teaches us how to think, how to express ourselves. Teaches us compassion. There is a quote there from Heine: ‘What does this solitary tear mean? It so blurs my gaze.’ Poetry gives deeper insight into that which we might have missed in the daily rush of things.
LEILA AL SAMARRAI was born on October 19th, 1976 in Kragujevac, Serbia. She writes poetry, short stories, and plays, her work largely containing the motives of fantasy and humor. Her debut collection of poetry „The Darkness Will Understand“won the First Prize in the competition organized by the Student cultural center of Kragujevac in 2002. She has had her work published in numerous local magazines, both in print and electronic form. Some of her notable works include the collection of short stories „The Adventures of Boris K.“ by Everest Media and (as co-author and critic) „Poetry Against Terror: A Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism Kindle Edition“. Her works were published in Serbian, Hungarian, and English. She has won numerous awards for her written works, including third place as a representative of Serbia for the aphorism „Stars and Us“ of the „Beleg“ competition and three separate awards in the „3-5-7 – A Story in a Moment“ story competition, as part of the „Helly Cherry“ competition, both in 2011. She currently lives in Belgrade with her three cats. Samarrai uses absurdism and the elements of farce in her plays. She favors surreal short stories, horror fiction, satire, and humoresque, enjoying the vaudeville style of structure interwoven with the style of “Pythonesque” stories. Her goal in literature is to weave fantastic realism into horror fiction, as well as utilizing magical realism and the surreal.
Posted by Our Poetry Archive
Labels: POET OF THE MONTH
You can read some of my poems published in the April issue of OPA – AN INTERNATIONAL WEB JOURNAL PUBLISHED EVERY MONTH at the link
Thus Spoke My Mother
Looking back in laughter
I’m dying Roman
This is the last stanza from my poem “Butterfly Idyll” * alternative title The Screams Of The Butterfly
BUTTERFLY: Death, I heard you while you were breathing…
I heard you while you were sleeping…
I heard you while you were weeping….
I heard you while you were screaming…
Centuries of noosed escape,
Eons of eluding fate.
Shrieked clarions called silent,
On immortal heights.
The laughter of the butterfly.