with Z.R. Ghani
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Z.R.: I started writing at the age of 16 when I read Jane Eyre and fell in love with it. I started off by writing surrealistic short stories and planning epic novels which never saw the light of day. Poetry always fascinated me and I was drawn to Shakespeare’s sonnets and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, but I didn’t start writing poems until my English teacher at college read a sonnet I wrote for my homework. He was impressed and encouraged me to keep writing, so I did!
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Z.R.: So many poets come to mind. However, I’ve always loved Carol Ann Duffy, Pascale Petit, and Ezra Pound. When I read their work I just want to grab a pen and paper and start scribbling away. Influences are great but I do believe in getting to know yourself, finding your voice so you’re not copying someone else but being true to who you are.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Z.R.: I grew up in Mauritius and moved to England when I was 8 years old. I tend not to write about Mauritius as much as I’d like to. Not sure why that is, it’s not a subject matter I automatically turn to. London, however, inspires me to no end. I love the diversity of the city, and the contrast between quiet parks and concrete jungles. At the same time I still feel like a stranger in London. It’s probably why I explore themes of self and identity in my work. I also like to write about where I am in my life right now, how I feel about myself at this point in time. Poetry is about confessing your truth – at least for me it is! I’m also inspired by Greek mythology, art, and fairytales.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?
Z.R.: I’ve put together a poetry pamphlet recently titled ‘In the Name of Red’ and looking to get it published. It was put together during the first lockdown and that was the first time I dedicated myself to a body of work when I felt as though I was being completely honest about my past and the events that have shaped me.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Z.R.: When I was studying at university, I chose the poetry module in my second and third year as a last resort. I thought, “how hard can it be?” and didn’t fully understand the work that goes into writing poems. The first few poems I wrote were badly received and I wanted to give up. After a long period of doubt I decided to read more poetry and be less forgiving with the editing. This not only improved my work but I realised that poetry was a crucial part of my life and I could never abandon it.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Z.R.: I like sewing, drawing, cooking, and going on long walks.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Z.R.: n/a here are links to some poems
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Z.R.: These lines are from an unpublished poem I wrote about Elizabeth I:
“Her beauty retreats as she looms near,/ becomes so rare it never existed –”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Z.R.: All my university tutors were amazing in helping me to develop my voice, I wouldn’t be writing now if it wasn’t for them. I am eternally grateful to Matthew MC Smith, an accomplished poet and the Editor of Black Bough Poetry, who believed in my work even before I had a Twitter account and was just a wannabe Instagram poet. I’ve still got a long way to go but I believe in myself because of him and owe him a lot for motivating me.