ON ARRIVAL, I CALL MY MOTHER by Hazem Fahmy


Apologizing for not doing so sooner,

الزحمة والله

and we’ll leave it there. She waits for no other sorry.

Our breath allows us to talk about the weather and mean it.

سبحان الله

Here, my mother does not call me a boy, only by my name.

This is a subject we do need to touch. Our eyes know it intimately.

Here, she already knows everything about the body she grew, how it’s not

our language’s fault that we’re still looking for words. We find them

in the braids she makes of my hair after she fixes my eye-liner.

Here, my mother disapproves of nothing except the dirt I get on our matching dresses.

In the evening, I make her tea and she does not ask for sugar.

What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?

It makes me think of young poets who have begun the process of establishing themselves in a poetry community and are on their way in finding their voice. Of course, an “emerging poet” need not be defined by their age, but most writers I would personally think of as “emerging” are in their 20’s or so.

Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?

I’d like to think I am. I would by no means consider myself at the moment an “established” poet, neither in terms of my position in the poetry communities I look up to, nor in terms of where I feel I’m at with my voice and craft. I, of course, don’t say that discouragingly – I’m 20, after all, and have no intention of rushing the work it takes to get where I want.

What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?

I’m honestly not quite sure. I think it completely depends on what poetry community one aspires to be a part of. The communities I look up to are those that center QT-POC in their space as well as prioritize urgent and accessible work over highbrow academic writing. While getting published in places I follow and respect is always a pleasure, true “recognition” for me comes in the form of friendship, solidarity and support.

How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?

So many ways. Speaking from my experience in the slam community, the poetry community I’ve been consistently involved with the most, I’ve often seen veteran poets develop borderline cults of personality that may cause their actions or work to go by unchallenged. Poetry communities need to safeguard themselves from deifying folks.

What does community mean to you?

Intentional, supportive space.

HAZEM FAHMY is a poet and critic from Cairo. He is an Honors graduate of Wesleyan University’s College of Letters where he studied literature, philosophy, history and film. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming in Apogee, HEArt, Mizna, and The Offing. His performances have been featured on Button Poetry and Write About Now. His debut chapbook, Red//Jild//Prayer, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press this Fall. In his spare time, Hazem writes about the Middle East and tries to come up with creative ways to mock Classicism. He makes videos occasionally.