SHREWSBURY – In August, Shrewsbury-based author Noor Ali released her debut poetry book “One Teaspoon of Home.”
It started with one poem. After Ali wrote the first poem, she kept going, and before long she had a “mini-collection” of roughly 20 poems ready to share with the local community.
“I was like ‘OK, this is definitely turning into a book,’” Ali said.
Ali describes her 24-poem book as “desi food poetry.” Throughout the book, Ali uses descriptions of desi food to discuss broader political, religious and spiritual themes.
“The first poem I wrote was about falooda, which is a milk dessert. When I wrote that one, the poem was standing at the crossroads of politics and flavor. There was a famous falooda shop in the city where I was born in Pakistan. The falooda shop’s name was ‘Benazir;’ Benazir was also the name of the first female prime minister in Pakistan,” Ali told the Community Advocate.
“When I was writing that poem I was thinking about how that shop got named after the prime minister. Obviously, the shop owner must have been fond of that prime minister to call the shop by that name – it’s like if someone called their shop ‘Obama-Burger.’ Then I played on the texture and the whole experience of the falooda and the politics,” she added.
It’s food poetry, but there’s more meaning than what’s on the plate. Through the food, Ali gives commentary on different aspects of society. The food is anthropomorphized.
Each poem is brought to life by detailed and intricate illustrations by Umme Aimen Kazmi. Ali had searched long and hard for the perfect illustrator, and she eventually landed on Kazmi.
“In my mind, the illustration would provide a translation or interpretation of what my words are saying to make it more accessible to more people who might otherwise be afraid of a book of poems,” Ali said. “The moment I read the first poem to her, I saw by her face that she got it entirely. She felt the way I felt about the poem… her emotional response was just like my own.”
Ali and Kazmi have never met in person, but the two met before Kazmi illustrated each poem. Ali said, “It feels like [she has] known Kazmi forever.”
In September, Ali hosted a poetry reading, which featured tastings of many of the dishes that Ali wrote about.
“It was so heartwarming,” Ali said.
Find Ali’s book at https://tinyurl.com/NoorAliPoetry.
Umme Aimen Kazmi, the illustrator, can be found on Instagram at @quirky_kahaniyan.