Sascha Aurora Akhtar was born in Pakistan, and was educated there and in the USA. Her debut poetry collection, The Grimoire of Grimalkin, was published in 2007 and greeted as “a contemporary masterpiece”, with the British newspaper The Guardian naming Akhtar one of the top twelve poets to watch.
About her own work, she says: “I am constantly engaged in a mystical world full of symbolism and imagery. I am concerned with the transcendental, with the hidden element to life, with the batin rather than the zahir, or apparent. This is a sufi idea, but perhaps it is why the quote from Huxley has always stayed with me: ‘There are things known and things unknown, and in between there are doors.’”
Sasha Akhtar says sound and musicality are key to her work, as is the experience of poems as things in themselves rather than “vehicles for some imposed meaning”. She takes inspiration from all art forms and all cultures. She is strongly drawn to mystical strains of eastern poetry, yet wonders “if it is possible to be a mystic poet in this day and age, when everyting must be exposed and revealed to constantly feed our need for information and control”.
Akhtar’s readings are often accompanied by Butoh-inspired movement and multimedia, including original artwork and soundscapes created in collaboration with other sound artists; no two shows are ever alike. “I have always been interested in ideas of freedom,” she has said. “My own life has been dictated by this desire for freedom. I left Pakistan when I was 18 in a quest for this elusive freedom.”
She earned a BA in Liberal Arts from Bennington College, where she studied writing, photography, filmmaking and multi-media installation art. In 2003 she was awarded a fellowship to attend the MFA Creative Writing Programme at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Sascha Aurora Akhtar lives alternately in London and Pakistan. She was the co-producer of the successful La Langoustine Est Morte reading series. She also works as a literary reviewer and arts journalist. In 2012, her fiction will appear in Tears In The Fence and The Critical Muslim magazines.
The Grimoire of Grimalkin, Salt, Cambridge, 2007
Sama Ghazal Salaam UK: Poetry and Lyrics Influenced by the Persian, Arabian and Islamic Sufi Writing Traditions (eds Chris Firth en Gareth Spark), Shutter Books, 2009
Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (ed. Carrie Etter), Shearsman Publishing, Bristol, 2010
In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself, Volume 9 (ed. Marlowe Peerse Weaver), MW Enterprises, USA (forthcoming)
Vallum Magazine: A Journal of International Poetics, The Pakistan Issue, Canada, 2012
Recordings of three poems by Sascha Aurora Akhtar on Poetcasting UK