Contact: Chip Colwell
New York, NY – SAPIENS magazine is excited to share news of its 2023 poet-in-residence: Toiba Naseema. Through this position, Naseema will use poetry, film, and music to reflect on memory, occupation, and resilience in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Naseema earned a master’s degree in mass communication, specializing in documentary filmmaking, and she is currently pursuing a master’s in anthropology at the University of Kashmir. She has been involved as an international youth panel member for a mental health data bank project funded by Wellcome Trust, U.K. And she has also been an editor with the Danish Siddiqui Foundation. Next month, she will be presenting a paper at the Royal Anthropological Institute’s 2023 Film Festival.
“I think the poet-in-residence program at SAPIENS is a fantastic platform,” she says. When poetry is blended with anthropology, it “gives meaning to our sense of liveliness,” she adds. Naseema believes “conflict is a place where one’s creativity thrives and reaches to the zenith.” In her role, she plans to focus on themes of Kashmir: resilience, mental health, women in Kashmir, politics on occupied bodies, and more. Through one’s artistic license, she says, a poet and artist can “navigate through the traps of occupation and [have] hope for the occupation to end someday.”
Naseema is delighted to be the next digital resident. “Occupation comes and seeks you, rules you, [and] ruins you,” she says, “but when you have the potential to drink the emptiness of your existence, you are the winner not the occupier.”
This will be the third year of the program. SAPIENS’ outgoing poet-in-residence, Jason Vasser-Elong, contributed six original poems, with accompanying audio recordings, to the magazine. Vasser-Elong also served as a co-editor for the Indigenizing What It Means to Be Human project, a collection of 19 poems and stories that launched in January of this year.
“Through my residency,” Vasser-Elong says, “I was able to learn from the staff at SAPIENS, while exploring the intersection of literature and culture by writing poetry that spoke to the challenges of our time. In addition to writing about the lore surrounding Native and African American histories, I also wrote about shared trauma as in the Buffalo, New York, mass tragedy and the war on Ukraine. While doing this, I found anthropological poetry to be a conduit of shared experience and personal reflection. The lessons I garnered from this appointment will remain with me for years to come.”
Also in January, SAPIENS Poetry Editor Christine Weeber interviewed Vasser-Elong to celebrate the end of his residency. Watch the video recording on SAPIENS’ website: “Rhyme & Reason: Poetry as a Cultural and Communal Bridge.”
SAPIENS’ inaugural poet-in-residence in 2020–2021 was Justin D. Wright, a doctoral student in sociocultural anthropology at American University. During their tenure, Wright contributed original autoethnographic poems that speak to anti-Black racism, anti-queer violence, white supremacy, transgenerational trauma, and Black grief, among other issues, at the same time they express powerful, emotionally rich dreams of freedom, of the quotidian, of Black survival and joy, and of liberation. They also served as a co-editor of the Lead Me to Life: Voices of the African Diaspora collection and a co-author of the article “What Is Anthropological Poetry?”
Anthropological poems bring readers insights, emotions, aspirations, and interventions from skilled observers of the human and nonhuman worlds to reflect on “what it means to be vitally human and to make sense of the human experience.”
Christine Weeber, Poetry Editor