Socialites and intellectuals gathered at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza hotel to attend Serag Yassin’s first book signing. The new book “Emra’a Waheda La Takfy”, or one woman isn’t enough, is a collection of poems that deal with the different roles that women play in society. eniGma’s Mahmoud Al Badry attended the event, and sat down with Serag for an all-encompassing interview that delved into his new book, gender roles in the Egyptian society, and the current state of Arab poetry.
What influenced you to go into poetry in the first place?
Since I was a young kid, I’ve always been a keen admirer of poetry in specific and literary prisms by and large. I always enjoyed reading for different writers in differing literary scopes. I truly love Arabic, and find it an extremely rich language.
I started off by writing short stories and articles in magazines and newspapers throughout school and university. Gradually, all of these experiences served to develop my talent.
What do you think about the state of Arab poetry nowadays?
The general public taste and modes of entertainment have naturally changed compared to the past, when poetry reigned supreme. While we still have a very impressive number of outstanding poets nowadays, our own understanding of poetry has changed drastically. These days, poetry is a lot more free-flowing compared to, say, the days of Ahmed Shawki. Our best known poets are all part of an older generation. However, there’s a marvelous array of young poets that are scheduled to have a big say in the future of the industry.
Could you give us an overview of Emra’a Waheda La Takfy?
The title might seem concerning. The goal, however, was to pique people’s interest. In that sense, it is mainly about the figurative meaning rather than the literal one. This diwan represents the manifestation of around seven years of work. It features aphorisms written in both traditional and colloquial Arabic. In it, I deal with a bunch of societal matters and day to day struggles, as well as naturally featuring some traditionally-styled romantic poems. You will also find some patriotic passages along with some satirical and humorous pieces.
Hopefully after people read it, they’ll notice that the goal behind Emra’a Waheda La Takfy is that one woman is, in fact, more than enough. What I was trying to do really was to present my opinion that one woman, as a lover or a child or a thinker, has so many layers and facets in her personality.
Is it related in any way to the Ahmed Zaki movie of the same name?
I don’t mean the title in a similar vein at all. In the movie, Zaki has promiscuous relationships with multiple women. The only similarity is that the movie presents various levels of distinction in a woman’s character. It is different from my work in that I looked at these features within the scope of one woman, and not multiple. I believe that a woman is instinctively born with various features and personas that are manifested in the different life stages that she goes through.
How do you see women roles changing in our society moving forward?
I honestly think that women’s role in our society was very weak historically. Recently, though, I think women have started to belatedly win their nominal rights as evidenced by the better representation that women have in the parliament nowadays. Also, in the past, we never really had female ministers as is the case currently. Women in our society can now virtually fill any position if they have the right credentials. You’ll even find that in the constitution, women are gradually gaining more of their rights.
In a similar vein, how do you see these layers of personality when it comes to men?
I think that these facets will only be visible from a woman’s perspective. Some look for a kindhearted man, some look for a friend, others for a lover. These changes are likewise motivated by the different stages of life.
How would you describe your writing process?
Writing for me is all about displaying your emotions and opinions over matters that are within your atmosphere and line of thought. Poetry is a wonderful representation of the mood swings that writers go through. In essence, all of our feelings are exemplified on paper. The process obviously differs from writer to writer. For me, it’s all contingent on my surroundings and my feelings. It’s a time consuming process, as my writings have to go through numerous editing processes before I could actually publish them. Nevertheless, if done out of love, then all the time and effort exerted will be an extremely minute price to pay given the enormous satisfaction that you gain out of your work; there exists no greater escape.
What advice would you give aspiring young poets?
Well any aspiring writer has to read a lot. They have to take a keen interest in the industry and hopefully establish their prism of interest from a relatively young age. They have to attend a lot of lectures and forums and be exposed to as many words and concepts as possible. In essence, any aspiring poet has to broaden up his horizons as much possible, even including reading materials that might not necessarily be very appealing. Doing so is really the only way for one to have a full picture and become as well rounded of a writer as possible.
What are your future plans?
I’m currently working on a novel that I’m really excited about. It’s going to be a work that serves as a direct representation of our society. As for poetry, I have two romance-based projects that I will hopefully release in the coming months.