Creator Spotlight: Abeer Aloul

Abeer Aloul is a poet who evokes sensations, memories, and reactions through her work. Drawing on personal experiences and gathered stories, she weaves lyrical rhythms that lift every day topics to a more ethereal level.

Creativity Undefined spoke with Abeer about her author journey, finding creativity from the world around you, and what more could be done to support indie writers.

Please share your creative journey with us. Have you always wanted to be a poet or was it something that you stumbled into?

I have been writing as long as I can remember but never thought of it as poetry. When I was younger, I would have a journal where I would write poems and songs. I was always drawn to creativity whether it was painting, dancing, or theatre. I never thought of myself as a poet; writing was always a way to make sense of my feeling and to process emotions. I only began to share my work and perform in my late twenties when I was exposed to poetry open mics and slams.

What’s your earliest creative memory? What happened?

I remember being 7 or 8 and sitting beside the window watching the leaves and flowers on the trees, when inspiration came to me and I started writing a poem about the beauty of spring. Today, I realize that being a poet is seeing everyday things in a different lens. Magnifying the details and stopping to stare at the ordinary things, in order to transform them into extraordinary art pieces.

Since then, how have you grown? Were there any defining experiences that shaped your work? What were they?

I have grown as a writer, through my education as an English major and writing more I understand how to use elements of poetry. I also learned how to use poetry to send a powerful message. I had many defining experiences on my journey. When I was involved in the Freedom Theatre, the directors taught us to use arts as a form of resistance. Arts, such as theatre and dance, can be a powerful tool to advocate for change and voice your emotions. My activism and advocacy background during university has influenced my work, as I use poetry to raise awareness for social justice issues and advocate for change. Also, traveling and living in different parts of the world and connecting with different communities really influenced my writing. I wanted my poetry to voice the narrative of those marginalized, especially women’s voices. My identity as a Palestinian Canadian woman shapes my work as well.  Finally, attending the first poetry slam in the UAE was a big moment for me as it inspired and encouraged me to share my work. Then, seeing my younger sister perform poetry and not afraid to share her work also inspired me.

How long have you lived in Dubai? How has it impacted your life as a creative person?

I have lived in UAE for 6 years, Dubai for almost two years. I am grateful for the creative opportunities I have been a part of and all the creatives that I have met. UAE was the first place where I began to perform my poetry after attending [a] Rooftop Rhythms event. I built the courage to perform and was showered with love and support. When moving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, I began getting involved with communities such as Blank Space and Poetryhood  (Dubai poetics). Meeting other experienced performers and authors inspired me to keep pursuing my passion and eventually publishing my work.

What do you think of the avenues available for indie creators in Dubai or the UAE?

I think there are a lot of opportunities for indie creators in Dubai [but] they are not as advertised or well known, therefore artist have to do more digging to find them.

What more do you think could be done to support the indie community? Is there anything specific that you hope will be done?

As the art scene is growing in Dubai, I hope to see more programs to support [the] indie community and more opportunities for … indie artists to meet each other and collaborate. 

What inspired you to write “Life in Pieces” and use this title?

The collection of poetry is from different stages of my life and [the] experiences I have gone through over the past 10 years. I felt like I pieced those life experiences and poems together to create a story.

In regard to what inspired me to write this book, there are various aspects where I seek inspiration. Some poems were inspired from traveling to international locations and listening to people’s stories from different cultures. In addition, my experience living internationally, and [my] cultural background has inspired me to write poems about cultural identity, [the] celebration of our ancestral roots, and women[‘s] issues.  The second chapter of this publication was written to help me process emotions such as heartbreak and get through some difficult times. My work is inspired by combining my theatre and activism background; I am inspired by artists and activists who break societal and cultural expectations and are advocating for a better world through the arts and education. Hearing international stories of injustice inspires me to take action in order to raise awareness and start discussions about these important issues. I believe that I can use the arts as a tool to advocate for meaningful change. Poetry is a powerful tool that connects people from multiple cultures sharing similar stories and therefore promotes tolerance.

Are the poems based on your personal experiences and observations? Or did you incorporate experiences and stories of other women in your work?

Both. Most of the poems are based on personal experiences and observations. However, some of poems share [the] experiences of other women.

You’ve mentioned that your book “empowers women and voices the narrative of marginalised communities.” How do you hope it does that?

My poems address issues that women face such as body image, cultural expectations, patriarchy, and advocates women to break free of these unrealistic pressures.  Some poems tell stories of indigenous communities and ancestral connections to the land. Voicing stories of our ancestors helps tell their story and voice their struggle while keeping traditions alive. I hope that readers can connect to the words and feel like they are not alone. Also, to build the courage to stand up against adversities in their life.

Your book seems to be available only on the Amazon Canada store. Is there a specific reason why this platform was selected?

It is available in both Canada and the US. As a part of the KDP publishing [programme], you have to chose a country where the distribution happens and where you have an address. [The] UAE was not on the list so my second option was Canada.

Is the book also available somewhere else? If yes, where? If no, then are you considering doing so? Where do you hope to make it available?

[I’m] currently working on making it available in bookstores in [the] UAE, [and] school libraries Toronto and Palestine.

Can people purchase a physical copy in stores? If yes, where?

Soon, they will.

Typically, when a book is launched, there are readings and signings. Are you considering doing that, whether in-person or online? Why?

I have done poetry interactive readings in schools with different groups of students. I had a book launch planned but unfortunately, [due to] the situation with COVID-19 it had to be cancelled. I am currently planning a poetry reading and workshop event. I think it is important to have these events to connect with others [and] also to highlight how poetry is a tool for people to express themselves in a positive way. It is a creative outlet to help them manage their emotions and sort through difficulties that they face. It can help them work through their fears, anxieties, or insecurities. Poetry can also be a tool to advocate for social justice issues and change for a better world.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your journey to publication? How did you resolve it?

The biggest challenge was dealing with mental barriers of self-doubt and fear. I remember being afraid to have my work out there for others to read. [After] my first rejections, I found myself doubting myself and even put my writing on pause for a while. I had to take time to reflect and remind myself that I am doing this because it is my passion. I pushed through all the difficult emotions and eventually accomplished my dream.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

First reason is to have full autonomy over my book. I already had my manuscript ready with the cover ideas [and] chapters, and I did not want to change anything to fit a publication house.

Second reason [is that] I wanted to take control and take action to achieving my dreams. I did not want to keep waiting to hear back from publishers; sometimes the wait is up to eight months. After receiving some rejections, I decided to take things in my own hands. I spoke to other authors who have self-published and highly recommended it. I took action and made my dreams happen and got my work out there.

Did you experience anything surprising as part of this process? What? Why? What happened?

I learned a lot of technical things [that] you might not think of as a writer, such as margins for paperbacks, type of paper, formatting for Kindle and illustrations, etc.

Do you have any other works? Can you please tell us a bit more about them?

I have several other poems that are not published yet. I am currently working on poems for the next poetry collection, and developing a new concept for this next publication. I am also in the ideation stage for a children’s book and a short story collection, which I plan to pursue in the near future.

Has the pandemic affected your creativity or style? Why? How?

During the pandemic, I had more time to focus on my creativity.  Working as a full-time teacher, I do not always have time to be creative. However, during the pandemic since I was not traveling, I used a lot of the holidays to work on the publication process. I also wrote more about mental health and wellbeing as well as the struggles of the pandemic.

What was the biggest shift that you’ve had to make? Does it feel like something that you will maintain after the pandemic’s over? Why?

The biggest shift is that I am spending more time on myself rather than travel[ling], [or] attend[ing] events. I am focusing more on appreciating where I am and the small moments in life. I will maintain that slower pace after the pandemic as it helped me ground myself and reflect on what is important.

How do you think our current situation has impacted indie writers and poets?

I think the pandemic is an exceedingly difficult time for artist[s] worldwide; with events cancelled and not having a space to network and perform can be difficult. There is also this pressure of creating more since the pandemic, but a lot of people fail to focus on the mental aspect of it which can cause burn out and lack of motivation to create.

What’s the biggest thing that you think has been exposed? Has anything been done to start addressing it? If yes, what? If no, why?

During the pandemic, it [was] exposed how essential the arts are to enhancing quality of life and wellbeing.  Also, the importance of having a creative outlet to express your emotions in a healthy way. There have been online creative sessions done to lift and support people. I think there needs to be more mental health support, activities, and community outreach for people to be creative and connect with others during these times.

What do you think should be done? What do you hope to see happen in the next few years?

I would love to see more opportunities for artist[s]. Also, art therapy programs that focus not only on creativity but also well-being.

What advice do you have for anyone starting out on their creative or publishing journey?

Set time in your schedule to focus on your creativity, where you allow yourself to be vulnerable and speak from the heart with no expectations or judgements. Always remember that you are doing it with love and do not compare yourself to others. Once you face self-doubt, fear, and judgements than you unleash limitless possibilities and can accomplish your dreams.

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