Poet, journalist and student Noor Hindi is getting ready to start the second year of her three-year NEOMFA program at the University of Akron. She also teaches a composition class, is the assistant poetry editor for the University of Akron Press and managing editor of the Devil Strip magazine. Her chapbook, “Diary of a Filthy Woman,” was published this year by Porkbelly Press. For more information: noorhindi.com
Fear of poetry
I think a lot of people are afraid of poems. I think high school teachers kill poetry. It’s insane. When teachers approach me and ask me how to teach poetry in the classroom, I say, “You can teach the traditional poets like Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson, but start with contemporary poets first because those writers are speaking the language that these kids are speaking.”
Enjoy the colors
Don’t worry about meaning. So much poetry is nonsensical. It’s like looking at a painting. You may enjoy the colors but you don’t have to know what it means.
I grew up in Barberton. My parents are from the Middle East. I was born in Jordan. We were in Texas for a year and moved here when I was 3. Now we live in Firestone Park.
Sense of home
I think any immigrant can speak to this — when you grow up in a country that’s not your own and your parents speak a different language than you, and the larger community is celebrating holidays that are not your own, things are not always in sync. I grew up in a conservative Muslim family and we didn’t have a huge Arab community that we were part of. And the schools I went to were predominantly white, predominantly Christian. Then you think, what is home? My father is a Palestinian refugee. My parents will refer to home, but I can’t stake ownership to that. I’ve never set foot in Palestine, but we refer to it as home.
I just try to focus on my own experience. People want to fit you into a uniform box, or are like, “Oh, you’re our one Arab friend, so obviously your experience is universal to everybody who has ever set foot in the Middle East.”
I think I am political in my writing. I think everything is political. The reason I am sitting with you right now at Mustard Seed is because of the 1948 war and the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. Otherwise, I would be there. I consider my whole existence and anywhere I go in this country a political act.
I started with spoken word poetry in high school. I was like 16, 17. It was weird. Now I look back on it and think: Whoa! I just had this inflated sense of confidence. I would just go up and perform these poems. Later, I had to go through and delete every YouTube video that had my name on it, because I was like, “These cannot be online anywhere!”
Killing your poems
Now I go to poetry events and I can’t handle it when people are reading, holding the page [acts out hiding her face behind paper] in front of them and whispering their poems. Or they are reading them in the most monotone way. And I’m like, “Why are you killing your own poem? Let it live!”
I do a lot of journaling. I believe that writing with a pen or a pencil is a good thing to do. I like the feel of that.
A poem a day
This summer, I’ve been trying to write a poem a day. I’m trying to do 60 before the second year starts. Most of them suck. It just becomes quantity over quality instead of making it pretty. Probably five or 10 of them are going to be good enough, potentially, for a collection. If I revise them enough. Then the others are just like dumpster fires.
Noor’s Faves & Raves
A Walk in the Park Cafe [in Firestone Park] is my place to go when I need to escape. They have great food and drinks, and it’s super relaxing inside. I go there a lot to read and work.
A place in Akron that I think is totally underrated is Pierre’s Brooklyn Pizza & Deli in Kenmore. They make the best pizza! My favorite toppings there are green olives and pineapple. If you love pizza, you have to go to Pierre’s.
— Clint O’Connor
Writer Noor Hindi talks poetry, politics and pizza