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Writer in Residence

Nasser Hussain Wrote a Book Using Airport Codes

The Writer in Residence for this month at the University of Windsor is a poet and creative writer who’s latest poetry book, SKY WRI TEI NGS, is written just from airport codes. 

Nasser Hussain is an alumni who graduated from the Masters in Creative Writing program in 2003. He then earned his PhD in Literature from the University of York in the United Kingdom.

Nasser is currently a Senior Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at Leeds Beckett University. He has written poems and autobiographies, but he says he loves making it more challenging then need be. 

“I put very heavy constraints on what I am able to write. I seek difficulty. I can write anything, but I have more fun when I make it difficult for myself,” said Hussain. 

Have you ever tried to write your name with a sharp edged tool into a wooden desk? Hussain remembers days of his childhood where he would use his compass from his mathematical instrument set to carve his name. That’s where his collection of poems titled “Poems I Can Write with a Knife” came from as he can only use letters that have straight lines like  A or E. 

One of Hussain’s quotes is ‘words are the raw material of culture’. He says that language is so vital to communicate anything. Nasser feels that all other art forms derive from a language.

“Language is how we communicate with each other, it’s how we deceive, it’s how we understand each other. Once you start using words to communicate something that you’re thinking or feeling, you’re producing a kind of cultural artefact,” explained Nasser. 

At the reading that took place in Katzmann Lounge last Wednesday afternoon, Hussain made it fun for audience members by instructing them to use the papers he handed out to make paper airplanes. 

While he read selected poems from SKY WRI TEI NGS, they were able to toss them up into the air, hoping they would glide into the bucket to win a free book. 

One of the poems in SKY WRI TEI NGS is titled “ISL AMO PHO BIA”, and Hussain says that he felt it was an important theme to add in his book.

“It’s hard to talk about air travel, have a name like mine and not confront the sort of elephant in the room when it comes to people of South Asian, Indo-Pakistani, Muslim descent and flight,” said Hussain. 

The poem is purposely shaped in a block to look like the American flag. Within the rectangular shape of ‘USA’s’, the words “MAK EAM ERI CAG REA TAG AIN” are in the middle. 

“It seemed appropriate. As fun and silly as the book SKY WRI TEI NGS is, there is a politics to it. It would have been irresponsible not to say something,” said Hussain. 

A fun fact about Hussain is that although he is in the works of writing a trilogy on methods of transportation, he has never driven a car in his life. He speaks on his interest of writing a trilogy on airplanes (Skywritings), trains and rail travel (Signal Failure) and lastly, automobiles (Theory Test).

“Most of what we have is brought to us by mass transit. As a poet, I’m trying to think of mass transit because it’s a hidden feature of everyday life, and it actually makes everyday life happen.”

Hussain says when starts to write his third book on automobiles, he also hopes to learn to drive.

“The book will be a document of that process and we’ll see where it takes me,” said Hussain. 

The writer in residence says that mass public transit is needed. He feels that the world would be a better place if people commuted through public transportation and riding their bikes. 

During his time in Windsor, Hussain is most excited about talking to students and reading their work. 

“I’ve seen some really quality work from the University of Windsor students in creative writing and I just want to see more,” said Hussain. 

SKY WRI TEI NGS, as well as other books from Hussain, are available to purchase in stores and online. 


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