Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Life of a Poet - Ninot Aziz

Written by Robert Lloyd

Have you ever meet a person, where after no more than 10 minutes, you have complete adoration and respect for them?  I recently did when I took the time to sit down and shape my most recent interview.  This week for our The Life of a Poet Interview I was lucky to have a wonderful back forth exchange with Zalina Abdul Aziz, known to us at Poets United as Ninot Aziz. 

Laura Schlessinger said “The people and circumstances around me do not make me what I am, they reveal who I am” I think is a wonderful way to start off introducing you to Nino.  She is the strong, intelligent writer and poet who offers us the blog Poems by Nino Taziz.  Nino was born in Hobart Tasmania, Australia and currently lives in Malaysia.  When asked what she loves the most about her life she simply and easily responds.  “The light of my life; Iman, Inas, Irani, Ilena and Little Ikesha.”  She has a loving husband and five wonderful children that inspire her poetry and she doesn’t mind sharing a small bit of that inspiration with others 

PU:  Why do you write Poetry and when did you begin writing? What was the last poem you wrote?
NA:  Well, really I can't help it. The first poem I wrote was on Florence Nightingale. It had 20 lines (5 stanzas) and I was so proud. I was 11 years old. I was living at the time in our village, Chenor Temerloh Pahang with my Grandma and Grandpa, so I had to wait for my Uncle Ghafar to come back from boarding school during the weekend to tell him about it. Right about then, I decided I want to write poetry for the rest of my life. Later, my English teacher (and gymnastic coach) Mrs Khaw Choon Ean encouraged my poetry, I wrote practically everyday. I was also sort of the school's resident poet. When I went to Canada, another teacher had the school Admin type all my poetry. I still have this copy today.

PU:  What do you find the most challenging about writing? What do you do to overcome writer’s bloc?
NA:  Inspiration. And the time to write. With a full time job, 5 daughters, my books - now I am on book no 5 - From The Ancient Arts, there are never enough hours.
To overcome writer's block - and I have had my share,
I walk away.
There was a time I did not write for seven years. I started writing again the day I first spoke to my to be husband, Rudi. I guess he was and still is my sure fire muse.

PU: What do you find most important in life, what matters most to you?

NA: After my family (Rudi and the girls - Iman, Inas Irani Ilena and Ikesha)

Firstly, for humanity - I feel strongly about what humans are doing to this beutiful planet. We do not need studies and more studies (though that must go on) to make us realise we are harming the planet and all the other living beings a great deal. Can we do anything ? Even if we change our children's way/behaviour, it will help. Are we too late - Only God knows.

Secondly, my heritage - I try my best to preserve Malay literature and legends ironically by writing books on Malay legends in prose and poetry in English!

Thirdly - I feel it is important to reach out to people and create long lasting bridges. I have met too many people who embrace each other regardless the mainstream both sides of the continents to come to believe there is real down to earth good in people.

PU:  Most writers read, what books if any are you reading right now?
NA:  At the moment I am reading Henri Fauconnier's The Soul of Malaya, winner of Prix Goncourt 1930.

PU:  Do you have any pets? If so do you talk to them?
NA:  Oh yes, we have a cat. He is Crookshanks. The girls named him after Hermione's cat in Harry Potter. Secretly, I think of him as Edward Cruikshanks. But he is really a sweet cat, always nuzzling around you. He's five years old and behaves like he is an older brother to my youngest daughter, Ikesha. So yes, we do talk to Crookshanks.

PU:  What poem, written by you, do you like the most and why?
NA:  Generally the latest. However, there is this poem I wrote when I first fell in love with my husband. When I met him, I felt I had come out of a dark and long tunnel of divorce :

I want to recapture my youth
The tremor in my voice and the blush
In my cheeks, tell me I have found it
The eternal fountain, it lies within the heart...

PU:  Do you have a favorite poet? If so who are they? What is your favorite poem by them?
NA:  For me, the way a poem is read is important. Read/Acted by Leonard Whiting in 1961, I love this sonnet by Shakespeare best...

"She speaks, yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it.
I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do intreat her eyes,
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven,
Would through the airy region stream so bright,
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
I would I were the glove to that same hand,
That I might touch that cheek!"

And Gerard Depardieu in Cyrano De Bergerac read this poem by Edmond Rostand beautifully.

"Ecoutez, les Gascons... Ce n'est plus, sous ses doigts,
Le fifre aigu des camps, c'est la flute des bois!
Ce n'est plus le sifflet du combat, sous ses levres,
C'est le lent galoubet de nos meneurs de chevres!...
Ecoutez... C'est le val, le lande, la foret,
Le petit patre brun sous son rouge beret,
C'est la verte douceur des soirs sur la Dordogne,
Ecoutez, les Gascons : c'est la Gascogne!"

This classic Malay poem, author unknown - this is usual for classic Malay literature, is a favourite of mine.

Jikalau tidak kerana bintang
Masakan bulan terbit tinggi
Jikalau tidak kerana abang
Masakan adik datang ke sini

If not for the stars above
Why would the moon venture high
If not for you, my only love
Why would I venture nigh...

(Adapted translation by Francois Rene Daillie author of Alam Pantun Melayu)

My favourite writer though is Frank Herbert. He created a world so vivid. Dune remains one of my favourite books alongside Le Petit Prince by Antoine St Exupery and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. MMmmm, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy....I guess there is no point asking a poet their favourite books or writers, the list goes on and on!

PU:  If you could only write one more poem ever again what do you think you would write about?
NA:  Definitely, about how beautiful our world is, and that by our ignorance , we might destroy it. Incidentally, the theme of Dune.

PU:  What other poets in the poetry blogosphere do you like to read or visit the most?
NA:  This was really really tough. There are so many favourites for so many different reasons. But these three blogs and writers absolutely move me with their insight.

Carrie Burtt @ Hope Whispers    Anne @ les fifoles

Anthony North @ Beyond the Blog

PU:  Poets are often creative on many different levels, when you are not writing what other hobbies, talents or creative things do you do?
NA:  I am an events and communications manager. I pull all my creativity towards making people have a really memorable time. Be it a table centrepiece, decorating the room, putting together a party or an exhibition. Whether it's for the kids or the King, I put my heart into it. By the way, the event manager in me can't wait to attend the cyberspace WILLOW BALL. What a cool and outlandish idea.

I also have a small herb garden, whatever I need to prepare our Sunday lunch - tumeric, lemongrass, chillies, wild ginger, ginger, etc and quite a few small fruit trees like chiku, passionfruit, buah nona - Ninot's Herbs In Pots

PU:  Everyone has their favorites quotes they live by or repeat, mine is “He who Laughs…Lasts” ~ Mary Pettitbone Poole. What quote do you use often or live by.

NA:  I use this for practically everything - exams, giving birth, single motherhood...It works best when you breathe real slow...

Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (From Dune)
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Another thing...

I admire Homer, Valmiki, Andrew Lang, the Grimm Brothers, Hans Cristian Andersen, Charles Perrault, The Arabian Nights for preserving the world's epics and fairytales - what I term as the world's memories. Likewise, I seek to put together all the legends of the Malay world for the world to treasure.

Published Work (In Malaysia Only)
FROM THE WRITTEN STONE - An Anthology of Malaysian Folklore
HIKAYAT - From The Ancient Malay Kingdoms - awaiting print -

Layout Stage
FROM THE GATHERING - 15 tales from the East and West
NAGARA - The Lost Kingdoms

Poets United is grateful that Nino is one of our members. We appreciate the time she spent with us and her willingness to tell us about her life. Nino was a fun interview and she has so much to offer the world.  If you have a little time on your hands make sure to stop by Nino's blog Poems by Nino Taziz. It a wonderful read and place to spend time.

There is much more to a poet than just their poetry. The folks that live behind the pen can be some of the most interesting people around. We look forward to giving our readers an intimate and personal look at some of the other poets found here at Poets United in future, so be sure to return to Poets United each week to see who we chat with next. Who knows it may be you that we talk to next.


  1. Nice to get to know more of you ninot!

  2. Awesome interview! And I love Frank Herbert's Dune! =)


  3. Argh, Robb, you beat me to this interview :)! I adore Ninot's writing, and am so happy to learn more about her life. Ninot, you have the most beautiful family, and SUCH a wonderful, rich, loving heart and spirit. SO happy you are at Poets United.

  4. It is really nice to get to know Ninot at a personal great interview. I am glad I did not miss this opportunity. And with every classic Malay poem and song, she brought with her nostalgia.

    Thank you Poets United and thank you Ninot.

  5. Dear Robert,
    Thank you for the lovely interview. This has turned out to be such a lovely day - for the interview with Poets United to coincide with Ikesha's birthday and The Willow Ball later this evening!

  6. Dear Robert,
    Thank you for such a lovely interview. What a great day this has turned out to be - for the interview with Poets United to coincide with Ikesha's birthday and The Willow Ball later this evening!

  7. Dear Pamela,
    Nice to know you too. Love your work in Mexico...

    Dear Weasel,
    Oh, how lovely to know a Dune fan. Frank Herbert is awesome, isn't he?

    What about DragonLance?

  8. Ninot, I enjoyed learning more about you. I often visit your blog and do enjoy it. You have such a busy life and still find time to write such wonderful poetry. And Robert, it was a great interview!

  9. Dear Ninotaziz you are such a beautiful poet, and you have such a full and beautiful life. I wanted to share with you that i to wrote my first poem when i was 11 years old...i thought that was cool. You have created a long lasting bridge to my heart, and i feel blessed to have met you here. Look forward to reading your beautiful poetry for years to come. :-)

  10. Ninotaziz,
    Congratulations and so well deserved, having given such a wonderful interview.
    I feel that I now know so much more about you and your background. The influences which cause you to write.
    I always enjoy visiting your blog page.
    Best wishes,

  11. Dear Sherry,
    I remember my first visit to your blog and your beautiful Tolfino.

    Your dedication and life choices inspire me!

    Aha! Mary...
    You managed to sneak away from Paul to write this note. I am at Willow's Ball too with Leonard Whiting(Romeo)on one hand and Joseph Fiennes(Shakespeare in Love) on the other.Oops, here comes Joseph...I'd better hurry. Thank God Willow had these lap-tops handy in the kitchen.

    I love visiting your blog too. And your pic? I love it...Walking away without a care...

    Dear dear Carrie,
    Of course you know the way I feel...the connection that grows with time and every rhyme.

    What did you feel that first instance you wrote a poem? I would love to see your first poetry ever. Alas, I lost mine even though I remember the feeling and subject so vividly.

    Dear Eileen,
    I am really glad to know you. One of your poetries that reached out to me so strongly was The Other Me.

    Let's keep on writing...and change the world.

  12. It was so good to see the person behind those words on Nino's blog.... have always enjoyed reading her...

  13. And how the little girl I knew has grown and now with little girls of her own! I am so proud to have been your English Language teacher and seen your talent even in those days and helped nurture it. May you write for a long time still (without writers' block).

  14. Dearest dearest Mrs Khaw,
    To have you leave your kindest words here brings a hitherto unknown joy and happiness to my poetry blogshere world.

    Thank you for everything, thank you for putting the spark to the thirst of knowledge and a good read, for discourses on Wuthering heights and Anna Karenina.

    Thank you ! Thank You ! Thank you !


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