How I Write with Omar Sakr

Photo by Devika Bilimoria

Omar Sakr is an Arab Australian poet from Western Sydney. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Griffith REVIEW, Island, Wildness, Overland, Antic, Verity La, Strange Horizons, Mascara Literary Review, and Meanjin, among numerous others. Some of his poems have been translated into Arabic and Spanish, as well as shortlisted for several prizes, including the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, the ACU Poetry Prize and the inaugural Story Wine Prize. Omar’s first full-length collection, These Wild Houses, is out now with Cordite Books. He is the poetry editor of The Lifted Brow, and lives in Melbourne. You can find him on Twitter here and his website.


What kind of headspace do you need to be in in order to write?

I need clarity edged with emotion. It’s hard to explain. Think of it as a calm sea I dive into to find a poem. If I hit the bottom too hard, stir up the sediment, I can’t see. Too much emotion overwhelms. But a controlled dive where I can sift softly with an outstretched hand until I have in my fingers an old jewel that is perfect. Of course it’s hard to achieve that state, and things are rarely so ideal, so sometimes you have to write when you can’t see, swim in the dark, and come up with whatever you can. Later, through editing, you can polish it.


What does it feel like when you are on a roll and things are flowing nicely?


I’ve never taken illegal drugs, and I never will, but how I’ve heard some people describe certain highs comes close to describing how I feel in the moment: life-altering, mind-bending, like I’m unfuckwithable, all glory, all grace.


Whose work have you been influenced by?

I think we’re all influenced by everyone we read, and so for me, the pantheon of poets I read and look to is vast, it’s growing all the time. If I had to pick one, I’d say the late Philip Levine likely had the most influence.


Where does your writing come from?


All my wounds. More rarely, but occasionally, also my joys.
You can pick up a copy of Omar Sakr’s book of poetry These Wild Houses here!