Last year’s Spirit winner, this year’s judge: Namra Amir is going places Writing competition: The Winners
2018-09-01 16:02:27 -


By Santiago Gonzalez-Boneta


Namra Amir aspires to be Ireland’s next up-and-coming author and poet. A former winner of and recent judge for Metro Éireann’s Intercultural Writing Competition, Amir is a 22-year-old Irish/Pakistani writer born and raised in Dublin.

She describes being raised in a multicultural household as being quite challenging. “When I stepped out of my front door, I was in Ireland surrounded by Irish people and the language,” she says. “But as soon as I walked back in my front door, my house felt like Pakistan because of the language, the spices and the Indian Bollywood movies on the TV.

“At this age, I love it but when I was younger, it was tougher to balance the both. I am proud of living in two different places at the same time.”

Amir says her cultural background has influenced her writing as much as the literary legacy of her home. “I was being influenced by the previous generation of writers here, and I wanted to write like them,” she says. “But I couldn’t relate to the topics they would cover sometimes which I found frustrating.

“When I entered this completion last year, I wanted to show this frustration but also the beautiful mix of it. I like writing about Irish symbols like the Claddagh ring or the harp because they are particular things that represent Ireland and how they relate to someone who fully isn’t Irish.”

Amir graduated with a BA in English literature from UCD last year, and is currently finishing up her MA in creative writing at the University of Manchester. Her educational path has been heavily influenced by her childhood dream of always wanting to be a writer. She even describes the exact moment where she began to realise this dream.

“In primary school I remembered reading a novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry [by Mildred D Taylor], and it really resonated with me. It covered very important themes of racism and family. It was at this moment that I wanted to write stuff like this for people to have the same connection I did with this novel.”

For Amir, winning the Spirit of Intercultural Ethics Award in last year’s competition “gave me so much confidence going into the MA because I am a fiction writer who has dabbled in poetry, so knowing that my poetry collection won last year gave more confidence in knowing that I had more skills than I thought I did.”

She initially found out about last year’s contest during an internship at Poetry Ireland. “[The competition] magically came around and because this was about different ethnicities and intercultural diversity, this was the competition for me.”

Her winning collection of poetry includes three poems — ‘Roots and Rings’, ‘Harp on a Passport’ and ‘Diasporic Dancer’ — which can be found on the Metro Éireann website. Amir was inspired to write her winning collection after working on a different poem, about how she wants to be Ireland’s next big poet “even though I don’t look like one. I wanted to prove with these poems that new emerging writers are changing the scene, it’s going to be different because we have something to show for,” Amir says.

Although she is now an award-winning poet, Amir prefers writing fiction because she enjoys “getting into a character’s mind and creating a new world”. However, she still loves to write poetry because she finds it to be therapeutic.

Amir is currently in the process of writing another poetry collection as well as a novel, with the working title No Means No, about an Irish/Pakistani girl in Dublin facing the challenges of living with two different ethnicities. In everything she takes inspiration from the authors and poets she looks up to most, including Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid, Elif Shafak, Colm Toibin, Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain and Imtiaz Dharker.

As a multicultural writer and a judge for this year’s intercultural writing competition, Amir advises young writers to “write your truth, because when you write about what you know, your writing is much stronger, and it will come through so much more. It will also make you much prouder of the pieces you write.”

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