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A gap year after high school may be increasingly common, but few young adults can count publishing a poetry book as one of their accomplishments in this time.
Eighteen-year-old poet Misbah Azim Shaik has curated and compiled 178 of her best poems into her first-ever book, Fingers on Thorns and is already busy working on her next poetry anthology.
“Fingers on Thorns is an inwards-facing book, divided into three sections – Mesmerised, Pierced and Remedy,” the Bahrain-based Indian poet tells GulfWeekly.
“‘Mesmerised’ consists of poems which revolve around joy, love, cherishing every moment and finding happiness in the little things.
“‘Pierced’ includes poems that draw attention towards social topics, judgements of the society we live in, feminism, depression, insomnia and anxiety.
“‘Remedy’ focuses on healing. It motivates us to be the best version of ourselves, teaching us that we are capable of going through anything and coming out stronger than before.”
The dualistic awe-inspiring nature of roses was the muse for Misbah’s first book title. “The delicacy of a rose has always fascinated me but I also came to respect and personify the weapon she carries with herself – her thorns,” she adds.
“Everyone can be mesmerised by her, but no one can pluck her without getting pierced by her thorns.”
Amongst Misbah’s favourite poems from Fingers on Thorns is the one reckoning with the pressures of being the eldest daughter of her family.
She writes, “It isn’t easy to/be the backbone of the family, /a family with values as high /as their egos, /carrying all the responsibilities /on our sleeves, /all the expectations making /our chests heavy, /with pleas of help/glistening our eyes /yet we are asked to swallow /our screams and /pretend everything is alright. /-story of every eldest daughter of the family.”
But she is quick to add: “My family is very understanding but that does not mean that we are not the pride of the family. After all, the reputation of the family depends on us.”
Though she is the first poet in the family, Misbah’s late grandfather was a huge driving force behind her writing. He kept “all my scribbles safely,” she says, certain that he would be proud of her literary achievements. In fact, she has included a poem she penned when he passed away in her book.
The cover of Fingers on Thorns is designed by India-based digital artist Divyani Jaiswal, with illustrations inside done by Misbah’s friend Teesha Suvarna (Instagram: teeeeshaaaa_04).
The book is reminiscent of Misbah’s role model and Canadian poet Rupi Kaur’s works, Milk and Honey, and The Sun and Her Flowers.
“She inspires me so much, to be a better writer and a better person,” Misbah adds enthusiastically.
“Rupi’s poems reminds me that I am not alone. It has helped me get through the difficult times and I hope that my book helps people too.”
While many poets start from the beginning of a poem, Misbah’s focus is first and foremost on the last words, and the poet takes her muses from her milieu.
“I have never sat down particularly with the intention of writing,” she explains.
“I could be outside with loved ones and write poems in the notes application on my phone. I personify anything that I see, whether it is a streetlight or trees. It takes me roughly 10 minutes for one poem – never more than that.”
The poet is not one to rest on her laurels, however, having already started to work on Wanderlust, her second book.
With her next anthology, she hopes to take a closer look at the world outside and around her, focusing more on social issues, and drawing creative juices from her first steps into adulthood.
She explains the over-arching concept as one revolving around “different age groups – childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age.”
She will also be ruminating on the lessons learned in the pandemic, noting, “The past year taught me that life moves on no matter what - uncountable number of families lost their loved ones, it broke them, but they are still moving forward.”
She hopes to pen another 170 to 180 poems when she is not busy studying to become a chartered certified accountant at the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance, and release Wanderlust by 2023.
Fingers on Thorns is now available on Amazon. Follow @misbahshaikk on Instagram for more details.