Ahmad Al-Ashqar is a nomadic, romantic, illmatic Palestinian-American poet-translator. Soon after his birth in Kuwait, at the start of the Gulf War his family was displaced to Jordan before moving to Chicago. Ahmad first fell in love with language through rap and spoken word, participating in both performative arts before discovering his affinity for written poetry. He received his BA in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his MFA from The New School. His first full-length publication, Advances in Embroidery, was ranked among Brooklyn Rail’s 25 Best Poetry Books of 2017. Most notably, he is wholly and passionately engaged in the world's most ancient art forms: husbandry and fatherhood, from which he draws all of his inspiration.
1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?
My favorite literary villain is easily Lady Macbeth! She's like, so badass. And my favorite protagonist, as much as I have disdain for Mark Twain for his terrible/antiquated analyses of the Middle East in his travels, would be Huck Finn. That kid's got guts!
2. When did you know you were a writer?
When in high school I started writing my peers' essays for money, and they aced them. Then I wrote many of my classmates' college application essays and they were getting accepted to competitive colleges. I figured Hell, if I can do this as a hustle (as opposed to my cousins, who were involved in less-than-legal hustles), maybe I should pursue it! It was in my writing workshops at UIC that I realized I was actually good.
3. What are you currently working on?
As a father of two young ones and currently dealing with mental health issues, I'm currently working on life. Organizing myself, getting healthy, etcetera. I'm writing about my experiences, albeit inconsistently. I hope to turn these musings into something coherent.
4 How has your writing process changed over the years?
Oh man, it's evolved so much! Previously my writing was flowery and all over the place. As an immigrant whose native tongue is not English, I often felt that my writing should reflect a command of the English language. What this meant to me (at the time) was peppering my writing with complexities and figurative language. Almost a demonstration, or a proclamation. "Hey, I speak English, and I know big words!" After my time in The New School's MFA, I learned to strip the excess. Now my writing, while still carrying a certain flair of classical profundity (lol), is much more calculated and poignant. I'm also not afraid to reference from the Arabic, or pop culture, or other cultures from which I draw inspiration.
5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.
Not one sentence, but one word: architectural.
Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.