Poet and author Fareh Malik, the recent winner of the 2022 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award, has always been fascinated by verbal and oral storytelling, and he has been actively involved in “spoken creation” since high school.
“I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until recently, but I always knew I wanted to be an artist,” Malik told CBC Hamilton on Sunday.
Malik, 28, was born in Toronto, raised in Oshawa and moved to Hamilton in 2012 to attend McMaster University. He now calls this city home.
He describes himself as “an artist who enjoys participating in activism and helping the community” and “a semi-professional dancer” for almost 10 years.
“I feel a lot of things and I tend not to express them very well, so [dancing is] the one thing that has always really helped me to express [what I feel],” he said.
The pandemic has led to a greater focus on poetry
While he spent his early years dancing, Malik is more recently known for being a writer – something he finds funny.
“It’s just funny because even in high school my English teacher told me I wasn’t the best in English,” he laughed.
Malik says it was during the closures of the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic, when he “was deprived of going to dance studios”, that he began to focus more on poetry .
He says writing poetry allows him to reach people very directly.
“What I aim to do with my artistry now is really try to make a difference to people who are going through negative circumstances,” Malik said.
“My work has to do a lot about, you know, racialization, racism, Islamophobia, all these negative things that we see in our community and how to deal with and overcome these things.
“I try not to emphasize the negative aspects of these things, but I like to emphasize their negative nature, because it gives us a path to move towards positivity and to move towards reconciliation of these things,” he said. he declares.
One of Malik’s poems — replica —addresses “the tremors…that occur in your family line, even years after trauma has been resolved.”
Another poem – After 9/11, the war spread to our hometowns and made us grow up too fast, and my homie sister no longer wears her hijab – focuses on Islamophobia.
“It is first and foremost about Islamophobia, but to give it more dimension and depth, the poem…also talks about a cyclical nature of hate, where someone is racist towards me and my family, and so I hate that person….and then they start hating other people,” Malik said.
“So I don’t like to focus on negativity, I like to focus on the processes behind that hate and negativity and how to resolve that.”
First collection of poetry coming this month
Malik’s first collection of poetry — Flows that lead somewhere – will be released by Mawenzi House on August 15.
Malik says the book starts in a very negative place, but there’s a flow that shows people how to track positivity and how to get to a better place.
“The book deals with a lot of racism, xenophobia and heartache,” he said.
“A big, big cornerstone of all of this is how all of these things affect mental health. As someone who has suffered from mental illness in the past, and a lot of people around me have, it is something that I feel is important to talk about.”
He does such a wonderful job of articulating those experiences thoughtfully and creating wonderful scenes with his words.– Josh Taylor, artist, choreographer, educator and storyteller
Josh Taylor, choreographer, artist, educator and storyteller, is a longtime friend of Malik, whom he first met in 2012.
“We’re kind of like brothers in hip hop in terms of culture,” Taylor told CBC Hamilton.
“We’ve had hundreds of conversations about experiencing as a racialized person in the arts space, within society, and the things we could do to affect that.”
Taylor says his “friend and collaborator” was always “really thoughtful and it comes through in his poetry”.
According to Taylor, Malik uses poetry to connect racialized experience, mental health angle, being Muslim, and also what he has experienced and seen around him.
“He does such a wonderful job of articulating those experiences in a thoughtful way and creating wonderful scenes with his words that really make you think,” Taylor said.
“It was really exciting to see how good he is at touching nerves and evoking emotions and also talking to other people who have had similar experiences.”
Taylor said that Malik is a “talented person” and a “thinking person who thinks of others, very empathetic”, and this took his songwriting and his talent to another level.
“His work connects so well because it comes from a place of introspection, but also a critical look at the world we live in. And because it comes from this empathetic place, it will connect with people, it will connect with your own experiences,” he said.
“These are some of the reasons to read what he does and follow what he does because he will make you think or make you cry or make you laugh or he will make you feel a lot and great things .”
RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award Winner
In June, Malik won the 2022 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award, a national competition that recognizes emerging writers across multiple genres.
The jury described the excerpt from his collection of poems as an “intense portrait of what it’s like to feel different and alienated by daily doses of hate”.
The quote noted the poems’ “tenderness and striking use of imagery” and Malik’s “wide range of voices and tones to convey a nuanced spectrum of emotions and pointed critique of Canada’s blatant and hidden systemic racism.” “.
Taylor said he had two reactions when he learned that Malik had won the award.
One was: “Of course he did… Like, of course, because he’s so good. He’s talented, insightful and what he has to say – people should hear him and read it,” Taylor said.
“I texted him with lots of emojis and exclamation points, and ‘Bro’, with lots of O’s.
“I’m really glad they picked him because he deserves it and he’s just getting started,” Taylor added.