Shaheen Hussain is a judge in the Poetry category of the Hysteria 2017 Writing Competition; she is also a novice writer who has had two poems printed in books of poetry by the United Press Limited, entitled Oh How I Wished it Missed, and Colourful life.
Which writers or poets inspire you and why?
I came across Sue Townsend in my mid 20’s, and I must say I instantly warmed to her writing.
Although she is no longer with us I’m sure here writing will be read across the globe. I have always been fascinated with her ability to intertwine wit in everyday life issues whether that be, pain, turmoil, health, love, issues that affect all human beings at some juncture of their lives. She’s able to show real life but in such a unique way, which keeps her readers gripped. They say a poet becomes a poet, as he/she has been inspired by love, and having read poetry by John Keats I must confess I was smitten, by his poetry of course. The Eve of St Agnes is one of my favourite. His speech is often enchanted into fantasy and reality and one can easily find himself lost, which I suppose is reflective of love; as you have to immerse yourself in love in order to find the true spiritual love. I must confess my first poem was about love too!
What is your favourite piece of writing? Why did you choose this over everything else?
It has to be Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Having studied this classical piece of literary masterpiece for my GCSE’S (20 years onand the withered copy still sits on my bookshelf!),I was amazed at Hardy’s ability to create a conduit into late 19 Century and early 20 Century life. Amongst, the vast themes, the book stood out for me as it allowed me to connect to nature; the sweeping passages describing the landscapes of English countryside took my imagination far and beyond the realms of city life, the only surroundings which I was familiar with at the time. As a 16-year-old, I was very moved by the scene where Tess is raped. It is portrayed so subtlety that one questions whether it did manifest into her violation. This for me is Hardy at his best, leaving the reader the freedom to make his own mind up.
Who would you invite to a literary dinner party?
It would have to be the one and only Alan Bennett. I would love to ask him how he keeps tenacity alive when it comes to keeping all those diary entries, often detailed and poignant when it comes to understanding himself as a writer and his characters. I would also get him to deliver some of his monologues from ‘Talking Heads’, classic pieces of wry humour, meshed with serious issues affecting ordinary folk.
What are you reading currently?
John Grisham –The Litigators, coming from a legal background I must admit I do enjoy reading about the profession in a satirical way; Grisham is gifted at doing this.
Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?
I am a realist, so it would be fitting to say that the genre I most prefer is realistic fiction. Stories and narrations about characters that often resemble real life, real issues and real emotions. It’s the degree of familiarity and security I find in such works that allow me to empathise with such writing. I find I am drawn to this genre particularly, because it is a mirror reflection of contemporary life, and as a reader you are often left asking what I would do if I was in the character’s place. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, however, it does provide a platform for a debate, which is always healthy.