Ramna Safeer saves self with poetry

Queen's alum tackles issues of identity in Year of Saving Self 

Year of Saving Self is Safeer’s first book.
Photo supplied by Ramna Safeer

When Ramna Safeer  ArtSci ’18, first opened the email telling her that her book was going to be published she thought there was a mistake.

“At first I was like ‘this is wrong, I never sent anything.’ I was so ready to be like ‘oh I think you have the wrong person’,” she told The Journal.

Five months later, Safeer is preparing to publish her first book of poetry with Rahila’s Ghost Press.

Year of Saving Self is a collection of poems written by Safeer over the past year, and will be released June 30 with a celebratory reading at Queen Books in Toronto.

The book, named after one of the poems in the collection, is about coming to terms with oneself. Safeer describes it as a “self-actualizing” work that explores womanhood, diaspora, and racialized identity.

While all art reflects on the author, Safeer worked to ensure that the work was an authentic reflection of her own identity–one she says is often undervalued.

“I wanted this book to sound like it was coming from a young woman, and a young woman of colour especially,” she said.   

For Safeer, the voice of young women is often belittled and demonized, and she wanted to embrace her own voice as a young, racialized woman.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sounding like a young woman, even though I think that’s a voice that often gets demonized,” she said.

While Safeer is concerned with ensuring authenticity inher own voice, she’s also excited to be able to offer her book to young, brown women who might read it in the future—her sisters in particular. 

“This book is dedicated to my two sisters, mainly because I wish that they have books and TV shows and movies that reflect their own experience,” she said. “I think that this is my little way in paving part of that and allowing young brown girls to see themselves in art.”

Safeer’s activism and art often focus on issues of race and identity. As 2017-18 AMS Social Issues Commissioner, her school work and pieces in multiple publications tackle her own questions surrounding identity and society. 

Many of those questions she said arose from her time here at Queen’s. 

“I don’t think it was until I got to Queen’s and fully experienced Queen’s that I fully felt, not just like a minority, but really a desire to think about my identity as a woman of colour,” Safeer said. 

While the book tackles heavier elements of identity, Safeer tried to share hope and optimism through her poetry.  

“I think there’s a lot of heavier themes in it, but also I wanted it to be – especially when young women of colour were reading the book – I wanted them to feel hopeful. I didn’t want it to just be the hard parts. I hope there’s an element of balance,” she said. 

If Safeer’s past works are any indication, the poems will find hope and community in even darkest of times. In her poem “How I Feel About It All”, published in the Rising Phoenix Review after Donald Trump’s election, Safeer writes of how “we come from generations of / mouths managing to smile.” 

This theme of finding joy and purpose in the hardest of times is characteristic of Safeer’s writing–and it seems to be how she lives her life. In what Safeer dubs “an interesting time to be a woman,” she is excited to be able to share her platform with other women. 

At her book reading on June 30, Safeer will be sharing the stage with two other young women. 

“I didn’t want it to just be me reading from a book, no one would come to that, I wouldn’t want to come to that, I wanted to invite other young, women of colour that I know that are doing incredible work,” she said. 

The event promises to be a great night as incredible writers, artists, and people gather to celebrate an up and coming Queen’s writer. 

Safeer encourages everyone to join her at her book launch. “It’ll be fun I promise. There will be snacks,” she said.

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