FATIMAH ASGHAR is a nationally touring poet, photographer and performer. She created Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first spoken word poetry group, REFLEKS, and has performed at the Dodge Poetry Festival, The Nantucket Project, and TedX. Her work has appeared in POETRY Magazine, The Paris-American, The Margins, and Gulf Coast. She is a member of the Dark Noise Collective. Asghar’s chapbook After is forthcoming on Yes Yes Books fall of 2015. Visit fatimahasghar.com.
Fatimah Asghar! Do you ever publish your work without compensation or for a nominal fee? If so, why, and how do you feel about doing it?
It's more important to me that people read my poems then that they stay on my computer, or only in my body. Poems are urgent. What's most important to me, even above payment, is that my poems are online. There have been many times when I've needed a poem right then, and all I've had with me is a computer. Maybe I need it for a classroom or my own wellbeing. I want my work to reach as many people as possible, and that usually means some version of them has to be online. Being able to find the exact poem that you need quickly is the outmost important thing.
Does your craft alone provide you with a livelihood?
I work as a teaching artist for Young Chicago Authors and at the Art Institute of Chicago. That means both my craft and my ability to mentor young artists and engage with them in the work is what provides me with a livelihood.
If you have to hold a day job to supplement your income, or just make a living at all, do you feel you have as much time as you need to write?
I have a pretty glorious schedule with my teaching, where I am doing meaningful work but have a good classroom to artist-balance. Therefore, I have a lot of time to write.
How do you know for sure when something in your work still needs another revision?
When I don't believe it.
When revising something in your work, how do you know for sure when it’s truly time to stop?
I'm always revising, even after poems are finished and no one is going to see them anymore. I'm perform my poetry a lot, so if in a show I'm performing something and I don't like a line, I'll change it right then.
Do you feel that being a writer was a choice or a calling for you?
I have to write. Whatever else I might also be doing with my life, I have to write.
BONUS ROUND FOR PURE PLEASURE: What book did you probably read too young and it therefore haunted you forever after?
I don't know about book, but I watched Cruel Intentions when it came out, in the theaters in 1999. I was nine years old, and I watched it with my whole family.