King’s Academy, October 12, 2016 – At the age of 12, Sayf Abdeen ’19 was issued a challenge by his father: to sit down and write a poem. The result was the discovery of an innate talent and the first steps on a journey of self-expression. Abdeen’s first poem, “The End of Olympus”, was inspired by his passion at the time for Greek mythology. Abdeen’s father had also been writing poetry since childhood, so to discover a shared talent in his son was a source of great excitement. Impressed by his son’s first poem, he encouraged Abdeen to create his own poetry blog.
Since then, Abdeen has written numerous poems and short stories inspired by a range of subjects. At times light-hearted and at others serious, he has found that the medium of poetry helps him to express what is on his mind, be it mythology, social and political issues, or even school.
What is it about poetry that speaks to you?
Poetry has a rhythm, a flow, that helps capture my attention and understand its deeper message. If I am inspired by a certain topic, then I want to put that into words as soon as possible. If I have a really intense emotion, it helps me to express that. I like to use metaphors and imagery to write about social issues that I care about.
Which of your poems is your favorite?
“She Lies” is one I wrote about Palestine. I like it because I used references and hidden meanings; I think an English teacher would really enjoy analyzing it with the class!
How have you developed your writing skills?
To start with, my father would give me advice. Over time, I began to read more and that helped me improve. Last year in Honors English we studied poetry, and I learned that I didn’t have to rhyme everything. That made it easier for me to get my point across, because rhyming was restricting me. I also attended an Oxford summer camp where I took a very useful creative writing course that focused a lot on poetry.
Do you have a poetic style?
I don’t have a particular style, but it has to have rhythm and a question. It has changed over time. In my early poems I was telling a story. A huge turning point was when I wrote an assignment for eighth grade English that expressed more emotion. Later on I wrote “Webs and Water”, in which there was no rhyming, and that was a first for me. Then I began to question social issues, how society acts on its problems. I focused on refugee problems and war, and questioned how different people see death from different perspectives.
You also write short stories.
I started writing short stories last year. I wrote a 56-page story called “Disconnection”. I gave it to a few friends to read and they told me they really enjoyed reading it. I’m working on another story now called “White Lies”. Writing stories is more challenging than poems. It needs a plot line that carries it full circle but also has to have details along the way and character development. I need to work on those, on world building, which is a huge part of writing stories and one of the most difficult.
Do you have any tips for fellow poets and writers?
If you want to practice writing, or you get writer’s block, pull up a random image or phrase, and build on that. I like to look up random words and pick a word that catches my eye. There is also a mobile app called Brain Sparker that does the same thing and helps a lot. To be creative, you need to read books, listen to other people and understand how ideas are developed. I think it’s something you acquire rather than something you are taught.
Who has supported your writing?
My parents are very encouraging. They always want to read my work and they share their feedback. They were the ones who encouraged me to go to the summer camp. Mr. Eric Hansen, one of my favorite teachers, would give me advice on how I could improve in general. King’s supports people with talent a lot. I read the Spotlight articles [on the King’s website] about other students who have written poetry and novels and that makes me think I can do it too, and gives me inspiration. All my friends were really supportive when a website called WeAreNotNumbers.org shared one of my poems too.
What are some of your other interests?
I play guitar. I like reading, swimming and rock climbing.
What are you reading right now?
A book called The Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku. It’s about how developments in computer technology, artificial intelligence, medicine, space travel etc. will shape our future. I mostly read fiction though. I like to read crime, mystery and dystopian fiction. My favorite authors are Anthony Horowitz and Rick Riordan.
Where can we find your poetry?
On my blog: sayfabdeen.wordpress.com