THE WORLD MIRROR / SPOTLIGHT
When the Egyptian poet Ashraf Algammal published his latest poetry collection Under a mined moon (2016) he felt satisfaction. “I had said something I think is beautiful – I had put a small brick in the aesthetic construction of the human awareness,” poet says. He also wanted to share stanzas from his poem Fatal lust of a drunk general.
Shurouk Hammoud and Hanna Hirvonen, interview
Where are you from and where do you live now, Ashraf Algammal?
I am an Egyptian poet, I was born in Egypt, Giza governorate, on 8th of May 1972. I still live in the same area.
Does the place you live in have an impact on your book Under a mined moon?
The place where I live has an impact on my poetry collection in terms of the vision that forms the frame of expression and the nature of lexicography that is used in the technique as an abstract mental reflection of the world I live in, and the structures which form its components.
Why do you write poetry?
Poetry is an aesthetic value that is not supposed to have any profiteering finality of any kind, since art is desired in itself and for art’s sake… But to be precise, I write poetry to express a human attitude towards the self, existence and the other whether present or absent.
What is your latest published book, Under a mined moon, about?
Most of my poetry collections have a nature that aims to form an aesthetic vision of the universe and the human, and the continuation of recitation between the self and the nature. I also talk in my poetry collection about the crisis of the individual in the world, his legitimate questions about love, death, sex, homeland and destiny.
What are the conditions you have experienced during writing your book?
Maybe the questions of the mind that do not stop until introspecting the vision and determining the intellectual attitudes, controversy of the self, the subject, the ego and the other. And feeling how small the person is in the face of death and looking for a real and sincere value that explains existence.
Are you the same person than before writing the book? Did it add something to your personality and experiences?
Each poetry collection and even each poem, definitely makes a difference inside the author, it changes feelings and negotiates other feelings and discusses ideas, stepping down things and adding other things.
Creativity is an act that is parallel to change, to the intellectual addition and parallel as well to getting away from stereotypes, and from repetition that does not add anything new.
How did you publish your book? Is it self-published or was there a cultural institute or some organization which helped you?
It was published by a private publishing house that has nothing to do with the state funding or its financial support. My book is self-published. A situation that is bitter and ironic because there is mostly no support for artistic creativity or for the artistic creators in Arab countries.
Where can we find your book?
In ”Kotob” publishing house and in ”Egyptian house publications” and in the libraries of Cairo, and you can find it also in some of the book fairs in the neighboring Arab countries.
What you usually feel when you publish a book?
I feel a kind of relief and satisfaction because I have said something I think is beautiful and useful – and because I have put a small brick in the aesthetic construction of the human awareness and in the memory of the collective spirit of the literary and the artistic works of humankind.
If you were not a poet, what you would like to be?
A musician, I think.
Stanzas from the poem Fatal lust of a drunk general:
I twiddle my life
As a blind does
With a coin
Given to him by a girl
He does not know
Who she was
And why she did that
The black sorrows
Do not extinguish in the white nights
”How to build a city for your heart
From behind the guards!”
I am possessed
And the reason is that I love you
The aircrafts are puzzling in our cloudy sky,
The canons’ sound is all around us from all sides
And our neighbor got afraid for her little daughter
So, she gave her to an eagle
Who flew; taking her far away
Poem Ashraf Algammal, Under a mined moon, 2016.
Translation from Arabic Shurouk Hammoud, 2017.