Yusra Amjad – The Vibrant Poet
Poetry is life for Yusra Amjad. The young poet grew up in Lahore Pakistan and is the youngest of three sisters. She completed her PhD from Forman Christian College with an honors degree in English literature. When asked what poetry means to Yusra she says “It enables me to breathe easier. It’s my calling and always has been.”
Yusra usually writes in free verse, and only at times will use structure in her poetry. Her writing takes on the subject of identity and her experiences.
“I write about identity, and how different identities intersect.”
Yusra loves to read and write poetry that revolves around what she read.
“I also love writing about literature about and from the perceptive of fictional characters.”
She hopes her poetry can help her readers feel the experience that she is writing about. It the main reason that she writes, she says “The only thing I aim to do when writing poetry is accurately (portray) and experience and I put it out into the world hoping th experience will resonate with someone else”. Wrting is a part of life for Yusra. She has been involved with this creative form since she was a child.
“I’ve known this (writing) was my passion since I was 8 and I don’t really know any other way to live.”
Teaching English Literature is another passion of hers. She is an English teaher at LGS. One of the most important things she hopes to teach her 13 year old students is “to be kind ever day” Yusra aims to show her students different perspectives and have a strong understanding of empathy. She hopes to mold the mind of her students to see their privilege and to use this power for something good.
“I hope I teach them to acknowledge their privilege with grace, to separate their personhood from their privilege”
When Yusra is not teaching she is usually performing stand-up comedy or organizing a performance with an organization called Aruatnaak Lahore. One of the projects she works closely on is called Girls at Dhabas which is a collective that believes in reclaiming public space for women. Bringing women together in one space is something very important to Yusra.
“I think organization is important, but reclaiming space is also an everyday individual effort. It’s important to bring women together physically but also important to provide a digital platform for them to share their experiences and challenges.”
Along side working for this organization Yusra also finds it important to protect and help abused children. She believes there is need for a shift in society perspective towards the abused.
“I have learned that slutshaming begins prepuberty. As a woman, I have learned that men will publicly gather to dissuade a woman from retaliating and taking action against a harasser faster than they will ever gather to protect the woman.”
She understands the problem is much bigger than we may admit as society. She finds “that abuse comes both from a place of deep entitlement and deep insecurity.” In order to fix these issues in society she claims we need to understand the issue from all perspectives. These are the types of experiences and conflicts that Yusra hopes to alleiviate through her with the Girls at Dhaba and even through her young students.
Exploring her own identity, Yusra is not sure that she may identity as a muslim. Though she was raised muslim she says “there is not room for me in the social narrative”. Yusra religious identity is summed up by the poem “Tea” by Nayyriah Waheed:
Islam is still in my life
we are old soulmates
who could not work out the knots against the skin
but we still
share our hands
every now and then.
Religious identity is not a hard pressing issue for Yusra. Instead when asked what her role in society is as a young vibrant Pakistani woman she claims
“To stay vibrant as I age. ”
Interview by Anum Nawaz | Written by Nayaab Khawar