Poet of the Month: November 2012
I first heard Seni’s poetry back in the 1980’s, when she was still collaborating with the writer/artist Maya Chowdhry, making the voices of British Asian feminists heard. Politics has always been a motivating force of Seni’s work. She has been able to blend her concern for the disenfranchised and the necessity of human rights into the development of her poetic craft. The content of her poetry has always given me pause for thought. In her second collection with Peepal Tree Press (2012), The Heart of It, she remains politically committed, and also demonstrates the continuing development of her craft.
In 200? Seni was invited to receive support from Inscribe, then a new initiative from Peepal Tree Press to further advance the writing and careers of Black & Asian writers in Yorkshire. Seni was already well known on the performance scene from her years of work. Hearing this good news I could well understand her selection. I think of Seni as someone who, throughout life’s changes, has kept creativity as a central part of her life. Her consistency has been an inspiration to me, and no doubt to others. I remember speaking with Seni about her intention to apply to The Complete Works programme – she became the only poet selected from outside London. She was very clear and considered in her choice of Mimi Khalvati as her mentor. Again, in 2010 she put her efforts into applying to the El Gouna International Writers Residency, in Egypt and her commitment paid off.
I am delighted to profile Seni. She is a beacon for so many poets and writers, and her work deserves to be more widely read. She reminds me that politics has a place in poetry, and that it can strengthen and sustain a voice across decades.
How do I wait in this life, on this page
with the ink of that other life leaking
through? We nearly had all the time
in the world, suddenly we had no time,
threw it away like fish guts on the quayside –
all those coloured ribbons that had plumped
up my heart unravelled out of me, blew away
in the wind. Some days I am a taxonomist
obsessed with ordering and naming the bones,
some days I write out life plans in cafés
on paper serviettes, suck at the oak leaf
on my cappuccino froth, then blow.
From The Heart of It (Peepal Tree Press, 2012)