A poem from Detroit’s 2017 youth poet laureate

Jan 12, 2018

Hajjar Baban is the 2017 Detroit Youth Poet Laureate. She was also a finalist in the 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate Program.

Baban joined Stateside today to talk about her process, and to read her poem, “portrait of my grand / father as another kurdish man i never met.”

Listen above to hear it. Read highlights from the conversation below.

On how Baban writes through things, not about them

Baban said she becomes “obsessed with an idea.” When that happens, she said everything similar to that idea has a way of finding its way into her life.

“If I’m thinking about one specific thing … like, I’m going to write about rivers for the next year, sort of like everything about rivers will find its way to me, if that makes sense,” she said. “I write through that image...”

She said this not only works for tangible things, but also for experiences – “like a point in my life that seems so heavy at the moment that I become obsessed with it…”

On what led her to write “portrait of my grand / father as another kurdish man i never met”

When she wrote this poem, Baban said she was thinking about how her relationship with her father is the same as the relationship her father must have had with his father.

“That has been something in my head for a while now…” she said. “The word ‘exile’ is not something to be taken lightly, but there is a way in which that looks very similar to the relationships that I’m forming now.”

She said the poem also comes from the “space between ... things that you can talk about and things you can’t talk about. And like, what you can reach and what you cannot reach...”

Baban’s collection of poems, Relative to Blood, will publish soon with Penmanship Books.

The InsideOut Literary Arts Project will announce the 2018 Detroit Youth Poet Laureate in February.

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