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Zohra Saed is a poet, editor and translator who was born in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and immigrated to Brooklyn with her family as a child in the 1980s. She grew up in the close-knit Uzbek-Turkestani community on Ocean Avenue in Sheepshead Bay and roamed Neptune Avenue in Brighton Beach. In this interview, Zohra reads two of her poems, "Brooklyn" and "Neptune Avenue," which vividly evoke scenes of her childhood.
"One thing I liked about Afghan culture is that there's a lot of poetry memorized. Every occasion there's a poem that's memorized and it's recited," says Zohra, whose own poetry is about place-making. "I realize there's certain things I write poetry about, and it is that space between Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, where me and my friends used to play. The boardwalk that stretches all the way to Coney Island, Astroland, all of that. And the poetry means to maybe capture that sense of home. Of course, for exiles or diasporans -- I call myself a diasporan --there's always a sense of there's a homeland, there's some place I belong, but Sheepshead Bay is also where I belong."
Zohra spoke Farsi, Uzbek, and Arabic before learning English at PS 254. She has an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College and a PhD in Literature from the CUNY Grad Center. She also translates poetry from Turkestani and is a Distinguished Lecturer at Macaulay Honors College. Since this oral history was recorded, U.S. forces left Afghanistan and Zohra Saed started a GoFundMe to raise funds for the resettlement of an Afghan writer with whom she worked and members of his family.