Sarnia resident Najah Shuqair is a fighter. As a cancer survivor with a double mastectomy, she continues to stay positive despite life’s challenges. Almost two years ago, she lost her oldest son and just recently her father passed away. Now she is experiencing periods of low blood sugar. Still, she is a firm believer that having a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.
Raised and educated as a journalist in Jordan, Shuqair is determined and courageous. One of her goals upon moving to Canada was to write proficiently in English which is her second language. To hone her skills, she belongs to Writers International Through Sarnia (WITS), The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS), and Artists For A Better World (AFABW) in Hollywood, California. She recently joined Lambton Toastmasters Club in Sarnia
This Sunday, August 3, her second collection of poems Sarnia, You Are In My Heart will be officially launched from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Kinsmen Club of Sarnia, 656 Lakeshore Road in Sarnia. The book is dedicated to the City of Sarnia, in honour of its 100th birthday.
The afternoon will be hosted by well-known Sarnia writer Norma West Linder and will include a spotlight reading by Shuqair as well as poetic presentations by other local writers.
Refreshments will be served. Admission is free. Books are available at the launch and at the local indie store The Book Keeper in Sarnia. Fifty percent of the book’s proceeds will be donated to the Sarnia Branch of The Canadian Diabetes Association.
Last week, I had a chance to read an advance copy of Shuqair’s second chapbook. Below is my review:
Sarnia, You Are In My Heart Reviewed by Debbie Okun Hill
Poetry by Najah Shuqair
Akhdar Press; 2014, 38 pages
Six years after launching her debut chapbook Enter My Heart: Poems for the Soul, poet Najah Shuqair continues to focus on the heart: her love and passion for family, nature, and even the colour green. In fact, the word “heart” is mentioned over 15 times in her new book with her introductory poem stating “My heart is in every inch I walk on.” Her interest in the soul and spirits is still strong as evident in her poems “The Spirit”, “The Ghoul” and “White Angel with Green Outfit”.
However, in this second chapbook Sarnia, You Are In My Heart, Shuqair showcases her growth as a poet by experimenting with various poetic devices such as internal and end rhyme, free verse, alliteration and similes. Six of the 28 poems are written in acrostic form.
Raised and educated as a journalist in Jordan, Shuqair has embraced her Canadian home of Sarnia, Ontario but has also added some Arabic references which enrich her work. Her narrative exploration in new settings is welcomed. For example, in the poem “Sarnia” she writes “Your airport provides wings/to Toronto and beyond” and later in the poem “Car Rolls Over” she states “A car races the wind…not all people strapped in seat belts”.
With deep love, there is deep loss as shown in her poem dedicated to her late son: “Did the rose shrivel/ It was ripe yesterday./I watered it with my tears/covered it with my eyelids.” In this same poem, she writes: We hugged under the tree,/we became a pile of straw./The wind came and separated us.” In “One Winter Night”, one of the strongest poems in the book, she writes “the dark outside is hugging the dark inside” and towards the end of the book in the poem “One Spring Day” she asks “Did the thunder call the clouds to empty their tears?”
To balance the book’s melancholic moments, Shuqair includes whimsical portraits of lawnmowers, raccoons, owls, herbs and flowers. One of her more humourous lines is: “Eating an apple a day helps me lose weight. As she states in an earlier poem: “We share our sorrow and happiness” Shuqair goes beyond that by showing how the heart heals. Bravo on a job well done.