Zeina Hashem Beck on Desire and Lost Connection
In Conversation with Mitzi Rapkin on the First Draft Podcast
First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.
In this episode, Mitzi talks to Zeina Hashem Beck about her latest poetry collection, O.
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From the episode:
Mitzi Rapkin: Your poetry has this concept in it of not quite being satiated and a sense of longing. A line that I really love in O says, I eat when I thirst. Would you like to say anything more about that line or concept?
Zeina Hashem Beck: I think a lot of our existence, and also of poetry, is about desire and longing. What are we without longing, really, or without our desires, I wonder. I eat when I thirst is a line that is both literal and metaphorical. The fact that I struggled for a long time with my body image and with gaining weight, and oscillating between gaining and losing weight. So, “I eat when I thirst” is literally when people tell you, but sometimes you’re thirsty: drink water, you might be thirsty, you might not be hungry, you might just be thirsty. And this is me saying, well, I eat when I thirst, literally—that kind of dynamic with eating and with my body and gaining weight, but also metaphorically as you point out, longing. Longing and desire. And it’s really vast, this sense of longing for connection, be it to connect with yourself, or to connect with a lover, or to connect with you homeland, or to connect with you friends, or with your language, or with your mother, or with your daughters. What are we without that connection? I want to celebrate that. In some sense, it’s a mistaken thing to eat when you thirst as if something is always missing. But it’s also that I want to celebrate that, that at least I’m trying to get at something, to reach that connection, even though I keep missing it.
Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. Her third poetry collection is called O. Her second full-length collection, Louder than Hearts, won the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. Zeina is also the author of two chapbooks: 3arabi Song, selected from 1720 manuscripts as winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize, and There Was and How Much There Was. Her first book, To Live in Autumn, centered on Beirut, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize and was a runner-up for the 2014 Julie Suk Award.