Shyla Oryza Gheek is a 19-year-old and loves writing poetry and recently started an Instagram page to share her work. Along with which she compiled and published an anthology with 103 co-authors from 13 different countries. The anthology is based on the experience from the pandemic and hence is the first of its kind. It’s called isolating with our minds and was on Amazon’s bestsellers list within only 24 hours of publishing. She is currently working on her own poetry debut collection that revolves around bullying, feminism, body positivity, and mental health.
Here is Shyla Gheek in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.
1) How did your journey as a poet begin?
Started as scribbles in my little notebook, my words slowly changed into stories. At a young age, I was bullied in school for being diﬀerent because of a prominent birthmark on my arm. From there my writings came in the form of a ripple eﬀect, I started to stay a lot to myself which is bound to lead to overthinking. Rather than letting my own thoughts push me under a dark path, I began to write them all down in the form of poems and that’s where it all began.
2) Who has been your inspiration?
Inspiration? My whole life inspires me, the sky above me, the people around me even the past. The few topics that usually inspire my writing are mental health, self-love, body positivity and feminism; all stemming from personal experiences.
3) Tell us about the anthology you published.
This year due to the pandemic, at some point we all quarantined, isolating with our thoughts. This book represents every emotion that was felt through the first 6 months of this year of survival making the readers ironically feel like they aren’t truly alone. Isolating with our Minds is an anthology compiled and published in the summer of 2020. There are a 103 coauthors from 13 diﬀerent countries who have contributed to this book with either poetry or artworks. The book reached the bestsellers list on amazon India within the 24 hours of publishing. It is based on the experience from the pandemic with a focus on quarantine life, making it the first anthology of its kind. Moreover, the earnings from the book are all donated to COVID Relief Funds. Therefore, it is a “Book with a Cause”.
4) How do you feel being an economic student and a poet as well?
As only a second-year university student at the University of British Columbia, I have a lot of coursework. If it wasn’t for the quarantine and situation of 2020, I don’t think I would have ever had the time to contribute so much energy into my writing. From creating an Instagram page to launching a website, I am truly pleased to say that I spent the entire quarantine working on my poetry.
5) When and how did you plan to publish an anthology with so many coauthors from so many diﬀerent countries?
I began work on my poetry page in May 2020 and noticed how I was receiving maximum engagement on poems about quarantine and my mental health during this time. I realised that a lot of people who wished to express themselves and their thoughts about the same were unable to do so. I decided that I wanted to give them a platform to voice their thoughts. I put out posts and posters requesting everyone interested to contact me. Since I studied in an international boarding school and currently am in a University in Canada, I was able to attract students from many diﬀerent countries to participate in the anthology.
6) How was the experience of compiling so many diﬀerent pieces of poetry?
Honestly, It was a task that was glorious but came with its own challenging. I received way more submissions than I had initially prepared myself for making the selection process extremely diﬃcult. However, I was overwhelmed with joy that so many people entrusted me and contribute to my little project. All in all, it was an incredibly heartwarming experience.
7) Tell us something about the debut collection you have been working on.
My debut poetry collection, no matter how much work I put into it, its less. It is a collection that represents my journey; from being a girl who was bullied every single day to feeling insecure about my body to battling mental health issues and my healing and growth. My heart, my soul, my journey of 19 years is all compiled in that one debut collection.
8) What is the sole purpose that keeps you motivated to write?
It’s what keeps me sane. I write about every thought and emotion I have or feel in a day and some of those words come out in the form of poetry. So my motivation is just to survive the day.
9) What advice shall you give to aspiring writers and poets?
Don’t try to impress anyone with your writing, don’t do it for the likes or the followers, do it because it makes you happy. It is really easy to fall down the rabbit hole of writing what you think will sell or what others will like. Express yourself without any form of restrictions and don’t do it to please anyone. My father always quotes Punjabi poets who are poetries are directed towards themselves which reminds me that you have to write for yourself because the best form of writings root from words written for thy self.
10) Where do you see yourself in next 5 years?
In the next 5 years? I probably don’t even know what I will be doing tomorrow. I am not certain about anything, the uncertainty of life is what keeps it exciting. Even if I mapped out my future, as recent events, of a global pandemic, have proved, it could all be changed within seconds. What I do know is that I hope to be making a diﬀerence. Since the age of 12, I have been working with animal NGOs in Delhi as their youngest volunteer and have been an intern and a member of the PETA organisation. So the one thing that I am extremely passionate about is animal welfare and am truly certain that 5 years from now, I will still be advocating and helping these animals that can’t speak for themselves to the best of my abilities.
11) How’s life in quarantine?
Since I was in a boarding school, I have never been at home for such a long period of time and it has been really heartwarming to spend time with my loved ones. I have also had the privilege to spend time on my poetry and published an anthology. There are days when life feels too monotonous and I no longer feel like even getting out of bed but it’s all about how you keep yourself and push yourself to do better.
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