Over winter break, Sanam Sheriff ‘18 joined artists from across the globe at the Winternachten International Literature Festival in the Netherlands to present her poetry on an international stage.
Around 80 writers and poets gathered in The Hague for the 23rd edition of the festival, organized by Writers Unlimited, to explore the theme of “We the People.” The three nights of panels and performances centered around longing for a collective experience and the revival of social movements.
Sanam was involved in a number of panels, readings, and interviews. Her work was highlighted most on Jan. 20, 2018, when, together with the Schilderswijk Library, Writers Unlimited presented a set of readings and conversations. Sanam spoke alongside a young writer-columnist from Schilderswijk named Hizir Cengiz. Poet and local resident Ibrahim Eroglu recited Turkish poetry together with his daughter, singer Cansu Eroglu.
From eating breakfast together to rehearsing side by side, the community of musicians, dancers, and writers spent each day connecting as friends and as artists.
“I’m a 22-year-old kid in college, and I write poems in English. They write in Polish and Arabic and Turkish. Everything was bridged. I have never felt that kind of seamless community anywhere outside the Philadelphia poetry space. To see that on an international level instantly with people I’ve never met before—it felt like this short summer camp,” says Sanam.
Originally from Bangalore, India, Sanam has already made space for herself in the greater Philadelphia area poetry scene. As a member of Spokes, Bryn Mawr’s spoken and written word community, she has competed in the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, an annual spoken word poetry competition involving teams from more than 70 colleges and universities. She also regularly competes at The Philly Pigeon's monthly poetry slams.
Sanam is pursuing an independent major in creative writing. Her work has been featured in All Def Poetry, The Shade Journal, Button Poetry, Apiary Magazine, and The Academy of American Poets.
“Bryn Mawr has created a space in which I feel most powerful. There is no other space where I feel so comfortable in just being myself. I can do whatever I want, experiment in whatever way I want, and it will hold it. And I’m not afraid because there isn’t a threat—there isn’t an intimidation,” says Sanam. The permission to grow from successes and failures has helped her find a voice as an unapologetic poet. “The people here, the community here, there’s just a constant reception of whatever you’re attempting to do, and that permission has homed me.”