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Pakistani Poet shares cultural poetry as the final SoCo Reading Series author for the spring semester

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A poet originally from Pakistan shared his culture through poetry on Thursday, April 15 with campus personnel as the final author for the spring 2010 Southern Colorado Reading Series at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

The reading was held in the Hoag Hall Art Gallery, where poet Raza Ali Hassan shared his readings  after having to reschedule from the fall semester because of bad weather.

Raza Ali Hassan reads poems from his book, "67 Mogul Miniatures,” during the final SoCo reading series event on April 15, in the Hoag Hall Art Gallery.

Hassan’s poems expressed Pakistan culture from gods to famous leaders and pop stars. However, Hassan said he originally had no intention of using Pakistan culture.

“I was actually trying to stay away from the culture aspect, but ended up falling into it anyway,” Hassan said.

While reading his poetry, Hassan told the audience about different periods of history in Pakistan, which correlated to each poem. These quick history lessons struck audience members with questions of the Pakistan culture which they asked after the reading.

Although many of Hassan’s poems had a serious quality to them, He kept a balance by drawing out laughter from the audience with intermingled jokes during his reading.

Hassan also presented a slide show of pictures on a projector and  said each photo was intended to represent the individual poems he read. These photos ranged from a picture of Iraqi people starving during a famine to a picture of families celebrating the annual kite festival held in Iraq.

“(Hassan) is true to his culture,” said Juan Morales, coordinator of the SoCo Reading series. “He embraces it and he’s true to it.”

During his introduction speech, Morales said Hassan’s writing has a beautiful flow in sequencing, and he read a poem from the author’s book “Grieving Shias,” published by Sheep Meadow Press in 2006. This was the only poem read from this title.

During Hassan’s reading he shared pieces from the book, “67 Mogul Miniatures,” published by Autumn House Press in 2009.

Listen to Hassan read and explain poem number 67 in his book, “67 Mogul Miniatures.”

“67 Mogul Miniatures,” Hassan said, was composed from the basis of a plot from another successful poem written in 1913. He joked when he told the audience that the book only took him six months to write, but admits that his first book, “Grieving Shias,” took him nine years to complete.

After the reading, an audience member asked Hassan what inspired him to write.  He answered jokingly, saying he didn’t want to be a writer, but a scientist or mathematician. However he later admitted that he had been writing since he first learned to read and write English around age 9.

“You always know when you’re a writer,” Hassan said. “But you don’t always know what you’re good at until you stumble across it.”

He said he admits that his first book was sent to the publisher by his mentor, Bruce Smith, with whom he worked at Syracuse University when getting his master’s degree in fine arts.

Hassan said he advises aspiring writers to find a mentor who is willing to edit and critique their work, but he said it will only help them if they are willing to take the mentor’s advice.

“Someone who has had their work published knows what a publishable piece should look like,” Hassan said.

He said he recently worked with a student to get a 13 page manuscript published while currently teaching at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.


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