The three pillars of Zein Sa’dedin ’14’s new creative platform
For millennia, poets and authors alike have drawn inspiration from the sea. But for Zein Sa’dedin ’14, the sea was not just a source of inspiration but an embodiment of what she hoped her new creative platform would be.
“When you look at it the sea doesn't discriminate, right? It doesn't care who you are as you walk into it.”
This idea of inclusivity and acceptance drove Sa’dedin to start BAHR (the Arabic word for sea and poetic meter), an online bilingual literary and creative platform launched last year. The platform aims to amplify creative voices of all kinds, especially those from Southwest Asia and North Africa.
When asked about the need for a punlication like BAHR, Sa’dedin’s answer is two-fold. Currently, most literary innovation comes from either Lebanon, Egypt or the Gulf, contributing to a steady drain of literary talent from Jordan. There are also no regional publications genuinely open to all, oscillating between youth focused digital platforms or traditional print mediums reluctant to accept work that does not fit traditional genre categories or is written in more than one language. BAHR fills these gaps.
Sa’dedin was first drawn to bilingual literature and creative writing in her 10th grade English class, Arabic Literature in a Global Context. It was there that she was exposed to Arab poets and authors such as Rafeef Ziadah and Naomi Shihab Nye who, like Sa’dedin, live in a constant ebb and flow between English and Arabic. “I was really interested in bilingual literature because whenever I used to try and write just in English it never really felt right.”
Sa’dedin’s literary interests led her to the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England where she studied English literature and creative writing. She then pursued a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of St. Andrews where she also worked as a poetry editor for The Scores, the university’s online literary journal. As a co-editor, she curated an issue centered on contributions from those of Southwest Asian and North African descent, personally reaching out to poets and writers across the diaspora.
“Being a medium through which other people's work could be exposed and could be engaged with felt really empowering. I thought, okay, how can I use this position of power? I'm a poetry editor now. How could I use that position to make space for others like me?”
After returning to Jordan, Sa’dedin wanted to create a welcoming literary space where marginalized identities and stories from the region were not only represented but where people of all backgrounds felt heard.
“I think there's a need for a space...whose mission is to make sure that people feel safe and included and amplified as much as possible…That is why BAHR exists, that's the need for it.”
It exists for the 76-year-old man who wants to submit his work but feels out of place because of his age. It exists for those who cannot choose between writing only in English or in Arabic because they are constantly thinking in both. It exists for the young Egyptian poet who is tired of Arab women being pawns of both the colonizer and the colonized.
BAHR is also much more than an online publication; it gives everyday people the tools to explore and express themselves through writing. Recently, BAHR organized a five-week creative writing workshop drawing from the work of Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan. It was an unintended tribute to Adnan, who unfortunately passed away just a few weeks after the workshop ended.
When asked what advice she would give to aspiring young writers she says: “If you want to write about something, follow that impulse, follow it to the ground, follow it to its grave, keep going after it.”
In the future, Sa’dedin hopes to expand BAHR to include a print publication and host workshops and events that are physically accessible for those with disabilities.
Take a Creative Dip
Let’s have a bit of fun. Take a moment to reflect on these writing prompts from Zein Sa’dedin and send your responses to Beyondkings@kingsacademy.edu.jo. The best submissions will be published in the next issue of Beyond King's.
Start with a question to your younger self, end with a promise.
Choose someone close to you. Research and write about the etymological history of their name.
Write a poem entitled "What I Now Know."
Free-write for 10 minutes about a memory you have from your time at school. Then, choose three words from each line to create a whole new text.