Interview: Aisyah Shah Idil


Aisyah is the author of The Naming (Subbed In, 2017). Photo by Tiyan Baker.


hen and why did you start writing?
Aisyah: I started writing when I was five, stapling together a little story about an apple tree to give to my kindergarten teacher. I kept going because she liked it. This really could be the theme of my writing “career” – support from my teachers.

What does poetry mean to you?
Beautiful, rhythmic writing that bears witness to life. Usually written in stanzas.

If the year consisted of only one season, which would you choose?

What was the most surprising thing you experienced in publishing your book, The Naming?
How loved I felt at the launch. I was a ball of nerves leading up to it, but seeing so many people gather to celebrate the poetry of people they knew (and didn’t know!) was so warm. Reading my first book review was another thrill.

When writing poetry, where do you start?
By reading. I underline lines I love, jot down little thoughts next to it, then grab my laptop and start writing.

Can you describe a time when you broke something expensive?
Is $40 expensive? It was a T2 cup my friend bought me as a birthday present.

If the core of the Earth had to be one giant fruit, what fruit would you want it to be?
Something fiery and exciting. Durian.

Who is one person, writer or non-writer/living or not, whom you wish could edit or give you feedback on your work?
I want to edit emerging writers’ works. I feel like that would be so rewarding. Otherwise, I’d want Mary Oliver’s feedback on my writing and I’d want Sade to turn it into an EP.

Last song you listened to?
Errrr Olivia Newton-John’s ‘I Honestly Love You’.

What is the musical soundtrack to your chapbook?

Complete this sentence: _ yoghurt __ wind ___ verandah party.

I hope some yoghurt birds wind up at my verandah party.

Have you ever been frightened by what you write?

What are the first three animals that spring to your mind?
Quokka, cat, dog.

Outside of social media, what is your most visited website?
The New York Times.

In terms of writing and art, what are you working on at the moment?
A well-overdue piece on this year’s TiNA for Runway, and an article on what makes a good friend for the Ethics Centre.

Have you ever been in a helicopter? If not, what would you say to someone if you had to lie to them about a time you rode in a helicopter?
No, and I wouldn’t lie about that.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from writing so far?
To fight for it.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever found on the ground?
A scared kitten.

How do you know when a poem is finished?
It really depends. Sometimes it’s obvious, and other times you need an editor to tell you when to stop.

Who are some poets you would recommend to people who might not be very interested in poetry?
Sarah Kay, Alice Walker and Mary Oliver. I’d recommend them some Regina Spektor songs too.

What’s the best or worst advice about writing you’ve ever heard?
The best advice I’ve heard is to take your writing seriously, invest time and effort into it, study it and practice it and experiment with it the way you would any craft, and always be true to it. Integrity doesn’t always translate into one writing style. And honestly? It always needs an edit.
The worst advice is often well-intentioned praise that ultimately, doesn’t help your writing grow. But it feels super nice so never get rid of it. Enjoy the feeling and take what they say with a grain of salt.

The Naming by Aisyah Shah Idil is available as both a book and ebook over at the Subbed In shop.

Watch Aisyah reading the fairytale 'Skeleton Woman' over at Subbed In TV.


About the author

Aisyah Shah Idil is an Australian writer and poet. Her work has been featured in the Islamic Museum of Australia, Language on the Move, Love Haqtually, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Digging Deep Facing Self International anthology. The Naming is her first chapbook.


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