INTERVIEW: Privilege to witness one of the oldest and biggest book fairs in Arab region: CIBF guest Aminur Rahman

Ingy Deif, Tuesday 30 Jan 2024

Ahram Online spoke with acclaimed Bangladeshi poet Aminur Rahman during his visit to Egypt as a guest of the Cairo International Book Fair.

Aminur Rahman


Rahman, who was born in 1966, is one of the most acclaimed poets in his country. Although he graduated from the Faculty of Pharmacology at the University of Dhaka, he pursued his passion for literature and poetry.

He has published six collections of poems and three collections of prose in Bangla. Rahman also specializes in literary translation, and his poems have been translated into 25 languages, including English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Malay, Mongolian, German, Nepali, Russian, Urdu, French, and Hindi.

Ahram Online: Tell us about your visit to Egypt and your impression of the Cairo International Book Fair.

Aminur Rahman: This is the second time I have visited Egypt, but the first time attending the Cairo International Book Fair.

 It is a privilege to participate in such an event, known to be one of the oldest and biggest book fairs in the Arab region.

During my session with Dr. Sara Hamid Hawass, who translated my poems into Arabic, we discuss the contemporary world of poetry.

AO: What inspired you to pursue literature and poetry?

AR: I started writing poetry at a very young age. My first travel prose was published in a newspaper when I was 13, and at 15, I published my first literary magazine as an editor.

When I was only four years old, I eagerly attended school half an hour early to see a famous poet who happened to be my friend's father, which is surprising to think about now.

From the age of 15, I came into close proximity with all the famous poets of the country, and from 19 onwards, I had the opportunity to associate with the world's most renowned poets.

Literature was always on my mind. I published my first book of poetry at the age of 22

AO: As a pharmacist, where do literature and pharmacy intersect?

AR: Although I studied pharmacy and not literature in any institute, I have been reading literature since my childhood and writing poetry since my school days. I can claim to have read more literature books than an ordinary literature student.

My profession has actually supported my literary endeavors. Twenty-five years ago, I embarked on my first and longest tour for poetry, attending the Medellin Poetry Festival in Colombia.

It would have been impossible without my profession. It is very difficult to survive solely on literary work; only a few people can do it. I believe any job other than the literary field is detrimental to literary practice.

AO: Tell us about the names in the field of literature and poetry that have influenced you throughout your life. Are there any from the Arab region?

AR: In my childhood, I was inspired by the Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam in Bangla literature.

Also, without a doubt, poets Jibanananda Das, Budhhadev Basu, and Sudhindranath Dutta were among the poets of the thirties who inspired me. Internationally, I was inspired by French poets Charles Baudelaire, Rainer Maria Rilke, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Kahlil Gibran.

Rumi has inspired me a lot, and from the Arab poets, I am familiar with the works of Nazim Hikmet, Mahmoud Darwish, Al Mutanabbi, Adunis, and Mohammad Afifi.

AO: As an acclaimed translator, do you have any plans to translate Arabic poetry into Bangla?

AR: Arabic is a beautiful language. I have done a few translations of Arab poets. Currently, I am working on the translation of my dearest friend and great poet Ahmad Al Shahawy's book, which will be published in Bangla soon.

AO: How would you describe the magic and beauty of poetry in a nutshell?

AR: Many people have tried to grasp the majesty of poetry. Paul Valerie says: "The first line of a poem comes from heaven; you have to write the rest." Coleridge says:, "Poetry is the best words in the best order." Wordsworth says: "Emotion recollected in tranquility." Its beauty is described in numerous quotes.

AO: Tell us more about your future plans.

AR: I want to improve a poetry initiative called Poetry Cottage, which I built for poets during the pandemic on the banks of a river in a green village in Bangladesh.

My dream is to make it a centre point for poetry in South Asia. I have been trying to write a novel for a long time—a poet's novel that is very autobiographical.

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