RIYADH: In the newly burgeoning art scene of Saudi Arabia, Nora Alfard has found a home. Debuting her first book of poetry at a launch party in Riyadh on Sunday night, Alfard has established herself as a brilliant poet and a talent to watch.
Alfard, 24, has been writing poetry since she was 16 years old, as a member of the Riyadh Writing Club. While she credits the club with the beginning of her poetic process, she eventually left to write at her own leisure, unconstrained by the club’s policy of assigning topics to the pieces shared.
Alfard has been a fixture in Riyadh’s budding spoken word scene since the very beginning. She has organized poetry readings and open mic nights at artsy cafe Nabt Fenjan and encouraged several young Saudis to try their own hand at poetry.
“She is amazing,” said fellow artist Hala Mosaab. “I am so proud of her for everything she has achieved. She is an inspiration.”
Alfard writes as a way of releasing emotions after significant life events. “I began writing as a way of expressing my emotions,” she said.
“A lot of my poems come from a place of pain. But after writing them, I feel like I am no longer defined by that pain.”
Her book, “For You The Reader,” has been in the works for the past three years. From concept to publication, the road was long and there were moments in which she felt as though she might not be able to see the project through to the end. But ultimately, she was able to persevere, which she credits to the support of her family and her friends.
“When Nora decides she wants to do something, she just rolls up her sleeves and jumps right into it,” said musician and friend Nawaf Al-Harbi. “She is one of the most dedicated and ambitious people I know. If anyone could do it, it would be Nora.”
The book’s strength comes from its ability to invoke raw human emotion in a way that resonates with readers. Alfard’s poetry is surprisingly powerful for such a minimalist style. She is able to express so much in so few words.
The book’s title is reflective of the fact that everyone can relate to the poems inside. “I wanted to show people that it is OK to be vulnerable, that we all have these feelings and that there is no shame in them. That is why the book is called ‘For You The Reader.’ This book was written for everyone.”
The event took place at On Studio in Riyadh, where almost 50 fellow artists and poets gathered to hear her read from the book. She performed some of her most popular pieces, including “Hourglass,” “Comfortable” and “Laughter.”
The book is self-published, having been made via lulu.com’s online creator software, and is available for purchase from the Lulu website. Alfard made the decision to self-publish after seeing some friends successfully do the same and encourages anyone considering writing a book of poetry to do the same.
“Just go for it,” she said. “Do not let anyone’s opinions of what you should or should not do stop you. It is not as hard as you might think it is, and you will never know if you will be successful or not unless you try.”
Asked if there was one thing she wanted people to take away from the book, she said: “Weakness is OK. Reaching a low point in your life is fine and normal. You can get out of it. Find a way to express those feelings, embrace them, and you will be OK.”