Skip Navigation Links
06 October 2022

National Poetry Day Q&A with Hanan Issa

National Poetry Day Q&A with Hanan Issa

To celebrate National Poetry Day we spoke with Howell's alumna Hanan Issa. Hanan is a Welsh-Iraqi poet, filmmaker, scriptwriter and artist. She is also the current National Poet of Wales. Our College Creative Writing group had the opportunity to ask Hanan some interesting questions about her work and what inspires her.

What makes poetry such a special medium for expression? 

As Audre Lorde says in her essay ‘Poetry is not a luxury':  

“The woman's place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.” 

I believe poetry is the best way to excavate these deep, dark places of power within each of us. 

How do you deal with writer's block? 

It’s definitely a challenge and the most important thing I’ve learnt, am still trying to learn, is to be gentle with myself. There is success in not beating yourself up too. I’ll generally try to feed my creative soul in as many ways as I can without forcing it to focus on writing - I’ll go for a good walk, read inspiring work, watch beautiful films. This is usually enough to nurture that desire to write again. 

Where do you source your inspiration? 

Everything! No, literally, everything. I recently wrote a commissioned poem for Arts Council Wales where I combined the theory of quantum entanglement with a malfunction in a Lindt chocolate factory which led to an entire town being covered in chocolate dust to explore the idea of unity. I don’t think anything should ever be off the table when it comes to inspiration. 

Why do you like to include Wales in your writing? 

I’ve felt a real desire in recent years to learn more about the spaces where I live and spend my time. Like a necessary grounding. Wales is my home and it feels odd to live somewhere you aren’t in love with. 

What are some of the challenges you've faced in the publishing industry? 

Nobody really tells you how to get published. It’s all very mysterious and can be quite frustrating unless you are ‘in the know’. So, along with a fellow writer friend Durre Shahwar, I started an open mic series called Where I’m Coming From to showcase new writers, predominantly but not exclusively, writers of colour since we kept being told repeatedly there were no POC good enough to be published in Wales. 

Within Wales, the industry is quite small and intertwined. It can be difficult to break through initially but there are several schemes run by Literature Wales that offer support and funding for new and emerging writers to help them pursue a career in literature. 

What advice would you give a young poet? 

I always regret taking so long to share my poetry with others so my advice would be to go for it. Put yourself and your work out there and see what happens. The worst that people can do is say you aren’t any good. Most of the time this comes down to an editor’s opinion and taste and there will always be another press/ journal to send work onto. And, luckily, poetry is like any skill - the more you practise writing and editing work alongside immersing yourself in reading poetry - the better your own work will be. Good luck! 


Other News

  • News
    02 December 2022

    GDST 150: An Evening of Celebration

    O...

  • News
    02 December 2022

    Nursery learn about the Nativity

    O...

  • News
    02 December 2022

    Tenovus Lovelight Carol Concert 2022

    O...

  • News
    02 December 2022

    Crucial Crew with Year 6

    Y...

  • News
    02 December 2022

    Year 9 meets with Show Racism the Red Card

    T...

  • News
    02 December 2022

    Science Club create Oobleck

    S...

  • News
    02 December 2022

    Senior School Celebration Tea – Thursday 1st December 2022

    M...

  • News
    02 December 2022

    Howell's string quartet performs at Light Up A Life

    H...

  • News
    02 December 2022

    Positively You coach Years 10 and 11

    T...