In 2016 Malaika Gilani published her first poetry collection: Untold Journeys. She was seventeen. This year she has been a part of the global anthology, I Bared My Chest, comprising of 21 phenomenal women telling their stories. Recently I had the chance to interview this Melbourne-based poet and talk about inspiration, writing advice, and poetry.
Could you give us a brief overview of your current published poetic work? What are its themes and what would you like your audience to know before reading it?
Untold Journeys is about everyday life. Things we all experience: friendship, family, body issues, and so much more. There is at least one poem in there that you can connect with. If the poems aren’t giving advice then they are there to show you that whatever you are going through, you are not alone. Someone is going through the exact same thing too.
What was it like publishing a poetry collection at seventeen?
It was amazing to be doing something that not many people have done. However, there have been rejections because I am too young and inexperienced. But who cares, life is all about the good. If we start focusing on the negatives then we won’t be able to live at all. I’ve loved it. The support from my family and friends has been a huge part of how I got here. They help me stay humble and enjoy this experience at the same time.
What inspires you to create poetry?
People, their experiences, and their lives.
If you could sum up what you would like your poetry to evoke what would you say?
You are not alone. We are all going through the same things. In the end, it’s the things within us that make us more alike than we will ever know.
Could you tell me a bit about I Bared My Chest? What was it like working with and collaborating with other artists to create this anthology?
You could say it was an interview of 21 authors in book form. All participants were given a series of questions to answer, to show people someone else has gone through the same thing as you and to show people that artists are not [all] geniuses. We are [people] like everyone else, anyone can achieve what we have.
It was amazing to work with people who are so much more experienced than I am. I learnt so much from them and was in awe of how wonderful and cooperative they were. Most importantly, I realised we were all normal humans – we disagreed, we celebrated, we got sad and angry and happy.
Have there been any books/authors/poets that have deeply inspired you? If so, what are they?
Sue Lawson and Jackie French.
Sue came to my school once when I was in year nine and has been in contact with me since. And Jackie is such an amazing and inspiring lady. I contacted her to review Untold Journeys and she has been a huge part of my life since. I email her and she instantly replies, giving me advice and encouragement.
What advice would you give to other poets and writers?
Rejections make you want it more. It makes everything more meaningful too. I appreciate my work and others’ so much more now because I know what hardships we all have to go through.
What has been the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
If we start focusing on the negatives then we won’t be able to live at all.
Are there any upcoming projects that we can be excited for?
For now, I am on hold. I am starting university, so I am going to focus on that for now. However, once I am done with my psychology degree I will think about whether or not I still want to focus on writing and continue my writing journey.
Interview by Georgina Banfield.