Poetry as a Form of Protest: Interview with Hala Abdullah

This is a very important question so please think wisely before answering: what is your favorite way to eat a potato?

Fried. No, mashed. No, no, fried. Definitely fried.

How would you describe your self in five words or less?

More determined than afraid.

What are some of the books/songs/films that inspire you?

Richard Siken’s Crush was definitely a huge inspiration. If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll notice which poems of mine were written with his poetry in mind. Andrea Gibson has also been a huge influence on my spoken-word. I always ask myself “how would Andrea read this?” before I read a poem out loud.

As a writer where would you say your love of words came from and does that still influence you?

I think it came from my mama. One: she encouraged it from the very start. She always made sure I was reading as a kid. Always bought me books to indulge my habits. And when she found out I liked writing, she tried to foster and nourish that hobby every way she could. Two: my mama is a writer, too. So I was blessed genetically as well. My love for words was both nature and nurture.

Is there any poem that you feel most proud of?

That’s a tough one.

Do you see yourself exploring different fields of writing aside from poetry?

I’ve tried doing that. But poetry will always be the love of my life, no matter how much I explore.

As a Saudi woman, what are some of the struggles that you face? Does it impact your writing?

The main struggle, I think, is the lack of autonomy. The lack of choice; of freedom. Of course that impacted my writing. My writing is in its essence a form of rebellion against all of that. It is me screaming out where my voice is considered in itself a sin.

Finally how would you describe your poetry to those who haven’t read it before?

You might not understand it. It’s okay, because sometimes I don’t either. But I hope that like me, it’ll move you either way. Even if you don’t get too much of it.


Hala Abdullah is a twenty-something spoken word poet and a feminist from Saudi Arabia. She has founded and is currently the co-president of the Writing Club in Riyadh — a project that aims to help young men and women find their voice through writing.

To know more about Hala, feel free to check out her twitter or buy her book that’s an honest and necessary read here.