Biography

Shazia Hafiz Ramji’s fiction was shortlisted for the Malahat Review’s 2022 Open Season Awards. Her poetry was shortlisted for the 2021 National Magazine Awards and the 2021 Mitchell Prize for Faith and Poetry. Shazia’s award-winning first book is Port of Being. Themes of addiction, family, migration and surveillance continue to inform her novel in progress. Shazia grew up in Kenya, England, and in BC in Coquitlam and East Vancouver. She now splits her time between Vancouver and Calgary.

Micro-interview

Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?

"Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge was one of my favourites in high school. It was so dark and strange and neverending. It gave me a headache but I couldn't stop thinking about it before I went to sleep. I also really liked William Wordsworth and Sylvia Plath when I was a teenager. I remember repeatedly getting goosebumps every time I read the Verse of Light from the Qur'an. 

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?

It's hard to tell when I first started thinking of myself as a poet. The logical answer would be around 2012, when CV2 Magazine gave me my first publication, but I remember thinking of myself as a poet when I was younger and used to write poems about nature and animals. Thinking about myself as a poet when I was younger made me feel like a badass about being a total softie and seemingly noticing every cute and ugly creature in the world. 

I'm not sure how I began writing, but I constantly remember writing when I was young, even though I didn't think of it as "writing" at the time. I remember writing stories between sets of racing games on my first computer and writing poems in front of the TV. I used to love animals, like many kids, and I remember being overwhelmed by beautiful and sad things, which moved me to write. I think my urge to write poetry really came out in making lists. When I was quite young, we had to move houses frequently and whenever we made any moves or trips, I felt this overwhelming urge to write down what everybody had packed, so I would write things like, "one pair of Nike socks with hole in left toe." It might sound strange, but when I write poetry I feel very similar to how I felt making those lists. I feel like I'm always trying to save something and make it last longer in a poem. 

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?

A poet's job is the same as everybody else's job: to live fully and deeply, and to teach yourself and others how to live. 

If you have a poem in our anthology what inspired you to write it?

"Poem of Failed Amends" was written during my recovery from addiction. One of the steps in the recovery process is to reconnect with people you lost contact with while you were using drugs and to make amends with anyone you may have hurt in the past. I wrote this poem to figure out why I felt grateful even after my amends didn't go well. It was a clarifying, surprising poem. I hope the poem speaks for itself. 

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?

"Happy Birthday Moon" by Raymond Antrobus.

Publications

Title
"Dear Kin" and "Dear Kin (VI)"
Publisher
Event Magazine
Title
Port of Being
Publisher
Invisible Publishing
Editors
Wayde Compton
Date
2018
Publication type
Book
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