Five Minute Interview with Rowyda Amin

By Wasafiri Editor on May 2, 2017 in Articles

Rowyda Amin is the author of two pamphlets, We Go Wandering At Night And Are Consumed By Fire (Sidekick Books, 2017), and Desert Sunflowers (flipped eye, 2014). In 2009, she was awarded the Wasafiri New Writing Prize for poetry and in 2012 she won the Venture award from flipped eye press. She has performed at many UK venues including the Ledbury Poetry Festival, the Brighton Festival, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Festival Hall.

Her poems have appeared in Wasafiri, Poetry Review, Magma, Critical Muslim, Bengal Lights and in the anthologies Ten (Bloodaxe Books 2010), Bird Book : Towns, Parks, Gardens and Woodland, (Sidekick Books, 2011), Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (Cinnamon Press, 2012), Coin Opera (Sidekick Books, 2009) and Exposure (Cinnamon Press, 2010). She has reviewed books for Modern Poetry in Translation, the Poetry Book Society website, and Toe Good Poetry.

Rowyda was born in Newfoundland to Saudi Arabian and Irish parents and lived in Riyadh and London before moving to the USA.  She blogs at

What are you reading right now?

I tend to read several books at the same time, rotating them according to my mood. This is the stack currently on my nightstand:

In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature — Pre-Columbian to the Present by Miguel Léon-Portilla & Earl Shorts

Birdsong on the Seabed by Elena Shvarts (translated by Sasha Dugdale)

Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry, edited by Mónica de la Torre & Michael Wiegers

Where do you write?

I jot down ideas in a notebook when I’m away from home, but all serious writing is done at a desk in my bedroom. It faces a window, which is great for staring out of while thinking, and it has a lot of space to spread out various drafts of the poem I’m working on and to prop up the books I’m reading for inspiration while I write.

Does travelling inspire your writing?

I enjoy travelling, but other people’s accounts of their travels have had a far greater influence on my work. I’ve written poems that draw on the writings of Marco Polo, Lafcadio Hearn and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Other poems have been inspired by places, such as Kyoto, Venice, Berlin and the deserts of the American Southwest, that I’ve read about and imagined but haven’t visited.

Paper and pen or laptop?

I always use pen and paper until the poem is a few drafts away from being finished. In the early stages, I need to get a lot on the page quickly and for me writing is much quicker than typing.

What was the first book you read that made a difference?

At age fifteen, I came across The New Oxford Book of American Verse and it turned me on to poetry. I still have the same copy, which I treated horribly, including reading it while spending hours in the bath. I can tell which poems I used to read most often because of how wrinkled those pages are from the steam. Eliot, Stevens, Pound, Cummings, Plath, Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Galway Kinnell and Poe are all in very bad condition.    

What one book would you take to a desert island?

I would take the complete works of Gerard Manley Hopkins. His poems always make me happy and would help me to stay alive while I waited for a chance to return to civilisation.

Which new author should the world be reading?

Mona Arshi’s first poetry collection, Small Hands, is excellent and deserves a wide readership.

What book or books are you most looking forward to reading next?

Falling Awake by Alice Oswald, Hymn for the Black Terrific by Kiki Petrosino and Alfred Jarry: A Pataphysical Life by Alastair Brotchie.

What role does Wasafiri play in international contemporary literature?

Wasafiri presents literature and cultural commentary unbound by arbitrary divisions of language, culture and nation. It is a magazine that plays a unique role not only in Britain but in the English-speaking world.