When Do You Write? DILRUBA AHMED

The only time I’ve ever studied poetry was during my senior year in high school, when I had to pick a poet and her poems, analyze, annotate and write about them. It was called the “Senior Poetry Project” and completing it was one of the most stressful times of my high school career.

A few days into researching my poet’s poems, I regretted my choice. For my seventeen year old self, the poet I picked seemed too dark, too biting for my taste. Looking back, I hadn’t lived enough life to appreciate her genius, to understand her insightful commentary. I lacked the maturity to experience her work. Unfortunately, after the project was turned in, I decided poetry wasn’t for me.

Until a few years ago, when at the back of my latest Poets & Writers issue, I came across the announcement of the 2010 Bakeless Literary Prize for poetry– to Dilruba Ahmed, for her debut collection entitled Dhaka Dust. I had met Dilruba right before moving from Philadelphia to Atlanta, and was thrilled to hear about her published book.

I also wondered whether it was now time to try reading poetry again.

I ordered Dhaka Dust, and the day it arrived in the mail, read it from cover to cover.

Perhaps, when I first tried poetry in my life, I wasn’t ripe for it. But I’m thankful I heard about Dilruba’s poetry collection a couple of years ago. Because Dhaka Dust got me on the path to reading poetry on a regular basis. And now that I’ve started, I don’t think I’ll ever stop.


In the insomniac hour, in the insane, exhausted hour, after the snacks are packed, the day swept back, and both husband and child are sleeping.

I am of a certain generation, the so-called sandwich generation.  What I owe my parents: everything I am.  What I give my child: everything I can.  I ask myself daily, where does writing fit?

Every moment feels borrowed or owed.  So for now, I write in the stolen hour:  I steal from my day, I steal from my sleep, I steal from my family, my life–all for a writing that is sometimes difficult, and always necessary.

I write as I drive to work.  I write in line at the grocery store.  I write at night, when my mind can own a sliver of silence in a household typically abuzz with activity.

I write when I’m in transit–in cars, buses, planes.  When forward movement unfastens me from the tasks at hand.  When something from the blur of scenery springs into focus, quivers like a little live wire, a wire I must wrestle with my bare hands.

BIO: Dilruba Ahmed is the author of Dhaka Dust (Graywolf, 2011), winner of the Bakeless Literary Prize for poetry awarded by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.  Her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Cream City Review, New England Review, New Orleans Review, and Indivisible: Contemporary South Asian American Poetry.  A writer with roots in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Bangladesh, Ahmed holds BPhil and MAT degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA from Warren Wilson College.  She has taught in Chatham University’s Low-Residency MFA program.  Web site:  http://www.dilrubaahmed.com.


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