Poetry Muse: Yassin Alsalman + Text Messages: Or How I Found Myself Time Travelling
This weekend on Poetry Muse, we are joined by Montreal-based Iraqi hip-hop artist, activist, and professor Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman — author of a Text Messages: Or How I Found Myself Time Travelling. In our Q&A, Yassin shares how he started writing his collection, and how he meant it to be a confusing, sensory overload of a book.
Yassin's first collection speaks of the existential crises experienced by diasporic children of war before and during imperialism in the age of the Internet.See more details below
Who is your muse?
That’s a good question. I think it fluctuates for me. I have such an erratic way of working that there isn’t a singular focus, I tend to look at things as a multiplicity in oneness. One day it will be someone I see in the street, sometimes it's my partner, one day an experience, a witnessing, a question. There’s so much so I will say, there isn’t a singular one.
What inspired you when you started writing your poetry collection? And what is your creative process when you begin writing?
Like most projects, I start dabbling in a medium and it becomes a project. I think this book started 5 years before it was published. I was just writing short stories to unload words while looking for the perfect raps for my album. That is also a poetic form of expression. For Text Messages, I really went into my vaults of writing - things I have never shared, reflections from parts of my life - I think a lot of the messaging in that album is self-reflexive. I tried to share my most human pieces, no persona raps. Even when I chose verses that were on albums, I chose them to fix the context we were working with. Crafting a book was a first for me, I learned a lot.
When did you start writing poetry and why did you choose to write poetry over other forms of literature?
Poetry is my main vocation. It’s how I was eating for a while, how I was living and how I was thinking. It became such an intrinsic part of my being. I loved short form stories so I wrote a few for the book. I also grew up on comic books, so I wanted to share a particular digital panic through comic book form. I’m also all about community and collaboration so I made sure some of my visual friends shared their poetry. Thought Text Messages is a mainly a poets book, it is meant to be a confusing, sensory overload of a book.
How would you describe your poetry collection?
Heavy. Free. Rebirth.
What advice would you give to aspiring poets?
Just be true to yourself because nothing else in the game is worth it. Enjoy the freedom of being you.
A Poem from Text Messages: Or How I Found Myself Time Travelling
As your body enters the earth to be buried, I unearth the
buried memories rising with you.
As my grandfather lay in his own dementia, he would repeat
a story to me. During his stint as Mayor of Basra, he
experienced many colonial remnants and visits from
diplomats checking the state of their long-lost colony,
or so to speak. A certain British man would visit several
times, and they would walk along the Shaat Al-’Arab
talking and updating each other.
He told me that he would tell the man of the fish in the water,
how they counter each other and don’t face each other;
they almost battle each other for survival in a big struggle
The British man looked down upon the water, with a smile.
“That’s how we like it to be Jamal. That’s how we like it to
And he would repeat the story from the beginning again. And
again. And again.
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