A native New Yorker, Shafina Ahmed is a Poet and a Writer sharing the truths of her life, and her perspective of the world. She is a member of The Sunday Writing Circle, The Full Circle Ensemble, and Astoria Stand Up – Harmony & Dissonance Sessions. She has performed at Urban Juke Joint, Poets Settlement, SubDriftNYC, Waltz-Astoria, Wordat4F, Brooklyn Poets Yawp, Open Moments NYC, and the Nuyorican Poets’ Café. She is the Communications Manager for cultural events at Tsion Café, Sugar Hill-Harlem, and curates the Café’s monthly Open Mic series “SUGAR HILL BEATS.”
Spoken Word New York wrestled this spitfire lady down (ha!) to speak to Shafina about her passion for POETRY and what has driven her to become the creative force that she’s become – and is growing more into – in the Spoken Word Poetry community.
SWNY: What is Spoken Word Poetry to you?
Shafina: For me, Spoken Word Poetry is storytelling; sharing a story in its most raw, purest, intense, naked form with vivid imagery and powerful emotions evoking truthful reactions and sensations for both the poet and reader (audience/listener). I like to equate it to a crazy roller coaster ride at hyper-speed through the unknown universe of boundless dimensions and energies screaming at the top of your lungs in fear and joy.
SWNY: How long have you been doing Spoken Word Poetry and what made you start?
Shafina: I’ve only been doing Spoken Word Poetry for almost a year now. Last March 2014 I decided to quit smoking cigarettes, cold turkey, after 13 years, and one night I was having a terrible craving. I felt as if I was literally coming out of my skin and my brain was on fire. Then a little voice in my head said calmly, “WRITE,” and I started writing. It was like rapid fire. The words came flowing out of my pen and onto paper and when I was done I had 2 pages of a poem. I was actually impressed with what I wrote. Believe it or not I felt so much better. The stress of the craving was gone, and I was relaxed mentally and physically. At that moment I realized POETRY was my new addiction. It literally saved my life. After that I couldn’t stop writing poetry. And the funny thing is I never liked poetry before. I thought it was stupid. Joke’s on me!
SWNY: Now that you appreciate Poetry and plan to stick with writing, what are your goals for your Spoken Word Poetry career?
Shafina: I would like to teach workshops using Poetry as a means of therapy and social activism to help people appreciate their inner strengths and good nature; to connect to others that need and want help by giving them a safe space to share their voice, their perspective without judgment and ridicule. And give communities a platform through the beauty of the arts to unite in diversity to create equality for all of humanity. I want to travel internationally using Poetry as a means of cross cultural communication for all of us to remember that in the end we’re all humans and we can come together with one another peacefully, respectfully, and mutually.
SWNY: That is all very noble. Just what the Poetry community… The Arts and Humanities needs.
SWNY: What do you appreciate most about Spoken Word Poetry and its involvement in the ARTS?
Shafina: I love that I can learn so much from other artists just by listening to their words. I love being able to see the world through the eyes of another because it opens my mind up to all different walks of lives, experiences; and it undoes so many barriers of bias and prejudice. I am always learning something new from fellow artists and people who want to share their story free of ego. There really is a deep sense of community and love in the arts.
SWNY: What would you like to do for Spoken Word Poetry?
Shafina: I would like to open up and share Spoken Word Poetry to more audiences outside the poetry world. Poetry shouldn’t just be for poets. Everyone should be able to experience it. I love when I meet people at venues who say they aren’t poets but enjoyed so much what they heard it inspired them to write, paint, sing, dance, take pictures, cook, play an instrument; whatever it was it inspired them to move, to create something beautiful. Everyone should have an opportunity to experience something as creatively magical as that.
SWNY: What drives you to do what you do?
Shafina: Connecting to people genuinely is what drives me to keep writing and sharing. There are so many voices out there to meet and experiences to go through in life meant for me to learn from to grow as a person and make me a better human being.
SWNY: Who are your biggest influences in Spoken Word Poetry; who inspires you most?
SWNY: Shakespeare? An answer I receive quite often when asking that question. “Shakespeare.” Period.
SWNY: What projects are you currently working on?
Shafina: Currently, I am working on another stage production with the Full Circle Ensemble which will debut June 2015 at the National Black Theater in Harlem. I will be featuring at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in May 2015 for the event “Outlaws of Poetry” produced by ELKAT Productions. And I will also be involved in a webisode series coming this spring 2015 about life in NYC from the perspectives of several people.
SWNY: Woah! You’re going to be a busy bee! How can people see more of the works of the charismatic, crowd-pleasing, wild and crazy Shafina Ahmed and see you perform?
Shafina: I’m running around NYC all the time, so just check me out on Facebook and you can probably catch me somewhere spitting a poem… that is if you’re quick enough!
“SUGAR HILL BEATS”
Tsion Cafe & Bakery, 763 Saint Nicholas Avenue, between 148th and 149th Street, Sugar Hill-Harlem, NY, presents “SUGAR HILL BEATS” Poetry/Spoken Word Open Mic Series – Every first Thursday of the month. NO COVER. 7pm Open Mic list sign up begins and ends at 7:45pm. Maximum of 15 Poets/Spoken Word artists, 3 minutes each. Show starts 8pm. Featured poet(s) goes on after Open Mic. Show ends at 10pm. Hosted by Shafina Ahmed. Refreshments and food will be available for purchase during the show. (This Open Mic is only for Poetry/Spoken Word.)
The next “SUGAR HILL BEATS” is Thursday, May 7, 2015. (This is a MONTHLY EVENT, so if you miss the one coming up, be sure to catch the next for some of NYC’s hottest Poets and Spoken Word Artists. You’ll be glad you did.)
For future dates and times of “SUGAR HILL BEATS”, follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tsion-Cafe-Bakery/782185001805336?fref=ts
For more information on Shafina Ahmed and where you can see her performing next, follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shafinaa?fref=ts