The Young People’s Laureate For London – An Interview With Momtaza Mehri

Not just a biochemist, but also a poet who cares about the young of today, Momtaza Mehri dedicates a fair amount of her time to bringing awareness through poetry that touches various subjects. We have been fortunate to arrange an interview with her.

Ms. Mehri, first of all please tell us about your growing up and what inspired you to work for an elevated awareness among the young people of today? 

My childhood was filled with books, magazines, and poetry. I would read anything, even my father’s textbooks and newspapers. I was inspired by this and the poetry I was exposed to at school. So it’s only natural for me to be working with young people who have the passion for words I once did and still do. 

What are the areas you are aiming at? 

I want to work across poetry, criticism, filmmaking, and visual arts. To me, all these mediums contain their own poetry but can also be reimagined in exciting ways through poetry. 

How do you bridge the gap between biochemistry and poetry? 

I don’t think the two fields are necessarily disparate. There is a preciseness to biomedicine that can be found in the poet’s mission to find the exact right combination of words to express a feeling or a moment. My journey was helped by reading a lot of poets who were also doctors, surgeons, and scientists. There are many! 

You have been recently chosen as the new young people’s laureate for London, what do you plan to do in this role? 

I plan to inspire young people to claim the poetry in their own lives and tap into it. From workshops and performances to judging competitions, I want to involve them in the wider community of language-obsessed young people. 

Momtaza Mehri

You wrote the poetry chapbook sugah. lump. Prayer, which is on this year´s chosen list for the Brunel African poetry prize. You also won the Out-Spoken Page poetry prize last year – how do you visualise the influence of these and your other poems on the young. 

Hopefully, young people will stumble on poems that speak to recurring themes in their lives. In my wildest dreams, these poems will move something in them. 

Apart from poetry, what are the areas you find yourself involved in for the development of the present generation? 

Visual Art and archival are two areas that interest me. 

Do you think the age of the Internet has put severe limitations on the lives of the young? 

I think it’s a double-edged sword. But if used wisely and in the knoweldge that it’s a tool, it can create offline communities and help young people feel less alone. 

Our readers are mainly young adults from different parts of the world who look up to achievers such as yourself for inspiration. A word of advice for them? 

Do what you can with what you have and don’t punish yourself about the rest. Care for yourself so you can care for others.

Photos: Lee Townsend for Spread the Word

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