The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews (the "5Q Interviews": five questions for all) with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.
Today we are talking with Ramsha Ashraf, a poet and playwright from Pakistan.
1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?
Well, apparently, I have had plans to revise and edit two manuscripts, one of poetry and the other of essays, while I was about to join the International Writing Program here in Iowa but once I got into the system I realized there was much more that could be done, and ideally should be done, while being here. I am working on a proposal of oral history that looks after the aspects of documentation of the perspectives of living treasures, Mary Nazareth and Peter Nazareth. It is related to their experience as settlers here in the US. It, also, will provide another way to look at the expulsion of Asians from Uganda that took place in 1972 after the orders of the dictator General Idi Amin. This is what I have in my pipeline in addition to writing and editing the already neglected stuff.
2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?
It took me a couple of days to settle myself down according to spatiotemporal intricacies but now I am back on the track. I prefer to write when the darkness takes over and while the world around seems to have dozed off. Silence is the best companion one could ever find. So, I work, mostly, after midnight.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
Currently, I have Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Two Years Eight Month and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie and Mulberry and Peach by Hauling Neigh Engle up on my reading folder. Along with that, I am reading Anna Akhmatova’s poetry. Before coming to the IWP I did a television program on Akhmatova’s Requiem that not only instigated my interest in her other poetry works but it also gave me a reminder about the unchanged brutality of sociocultural and political issues. This is something I am reading for my pleasure but for research purposes the abandoned plays by John Updike are waiting in my reading list. Let’s see when I can pull myself out of lethargy and work on them.
4. What is something the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?
I guess it is always difficult for a person like me to share something about myself but about my work I can only say, as I said in the IWP orientation at Shambaugh House, that it is only a minute effort by the tiniest particle of the universe against injustice, suppression and cruel power structures. All I can share with the readers and the writers of Iowa City is that my work is one hundredth portion of the effort by an ordinary woman to voice the fears of her fellow human beings.
5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favourite details you would like to share about your home?
I was born in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. From my paternal side I belong to Gujranwala that has many Indian and Pakistani literary names attached to it, from my maternal side I have a connection to Sialkot, Punjab. I lived in Lahore almost all these years until two years ago when I shifted to Islamabad. Tere is an extensive history of my travels within Pakistan, be it towards north or south, but this would be the first time when I am going to explore the life in the US which is not only exciting but it would also provide me with an opportunity to detach myself from Pakistan and rethink about my relationship with other landscape(s).
Thank you Ramsha!