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I serve as a volunteer at the InterFaith Conference of Washington Metropolitan Area. Whenever the
IFC holds an event, I am assigned to man the "Media Sign-in" table. Or when IFC receives delegates
from foreign countries, who visit Washington, DC to learn about our religiously pluralistic societies
and our efforts to build bridges, IFC always invites me to participate in the meeting and dialogue.
I am happy to meet, help and work with people of other faith traditions. In the Islamic Holy Book, the
Qur'an, God says: "O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made
you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other)." (The
Qur'an, 49:13) And in another verse, God also says: "Had Allah willed He could have made you (all) one
nation." (The Qur'an, 16:93) This picture was taken in the Washington National Cathedral, when the IFC
hosted its interfaith concert in November 2005. The singer group
Native Deen represented Islam and
the Muslim communities in a rainbow of performances of 11 faith traditions. I myself have been a fan
of this group for several years. I like their lyrics and their simplicity.

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Monday, October 11, 2004; I am touring the Niagara Fall from the Canadian side. The
long bridge that you see is connecting Ontario, Canada and the New York State, USA.
The waterfall is in front of me.  I was then going to attend the American Translators
Association Annual Conference in Toronto, October 13-17, 2004. The first time I
visited the Niagara Fall was in summer 2000, with my sons Mohamed and Ibrahim, and
from both visits, the image of the torrential water evoked my memory of the English
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in its verse:
'Water, water, every where,' 'Water, water, every where.'
Dear Friends and Visitors:

Thank you for visiting my website,
HOUSE OF CREATIVE WRITING. I hope you have been doing well
with your life, career and family, wherever you reside. I welcomed the year 2012 with upbeat feelings
and lots of hope. In the past year, as always, I have retained my many clients and have also added new
ones. I have also built stronger working and friendly relationships with other linguists, writers, poets,
scholars, and business people, in that we support and recommend each other, as well as learn from
each other.

Now that spring has come,
Washington, DC now is blooming and blossoming with varieties of colorful
flowers decorating the city. With summer coming, people who love gardening, have started planting
flowers and plants that will last through the beginning of the fall. My perennial stargazer lilies in the
two crimson barrels in the front stairs, seem to have surfaced and are growing slowly. Now and then,
the squirrels will drop by to gnaw the roots, and I will chase them annoyingly. With me, as from year to
year, I will surely be planting green yams, besides other flowers, such as yellow and orange-crimson
marigolds and pink carnations, maybe.  I keep choosing to plant yams from spring to summer from
year to year, because, aside from its bright green color that soothes eyes, the leaves, when plenty,
can be picked and made into a delicious vegetable dish.

The Maine Avenue fish market in my neighborhood remains crowded by shoppers and visitors, who
come to buy varieties of seafood: fish, shrimps, crabs, squids, mussels, you name it! Some of them
come to shop and bring them home; many of them buy the cooked shrimps and steamed crabs, with
roasted or boiled corns, to eat right on the spot or at benches by the Potomac river banks. What
amazes me with this seafood market is the availability of crabs, the Maryland crabs, the sellers say, all
year long. I especially like to buy the female crabs, because of the inviting and delicious orange web
of eggs.

The Waterfront, as we call it here, in southwest Washington, DC, is a bustling and vibrant community
along the Potomac river. Strolling by the river banks, you can see many boats floating, a classic sight
in summer. Along the Water Street, a chain of famous seafood restaurants, such as Pier 7, Phillips
Restaurant, Zanzibar, and Jenny's Chinese Restaurant, are never deserted.
Phillips Seafood
is my favorite, as with only $14.99 you can have a feast of 'all-u-can-eat' buffet lunch of
varieties of seafood, including vegetables, fruits and desserts. Since I am an islander, grew up by the
sea, seafood has always attracted my appetite, than poultry or meat.

Washington, DC, is a pretty city, which always attracts visitors from other states and countries,
regardless whatever season it is. Being the capital, it picks people's curiosity. In spring,
Cherry Blossom Festival becomes the magnet; in summer and fall, the several Smithsonian
museums, the American Folklife Festival, the Old Post Office Pavilion, the National Zoo, the Botanical
Garden, the National Arboretum,  the White House, the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress, the
many historical monuments and memorials, are the destinations. And best of all, visits to almost all
museums and memorials in Washington, DC are free; different, for example, from my visits to
museums in New York and Atlanta, where I had to pay.

As I am writing this, spring has arrived, as has April, too. We, in the literary world, celebrate "April, the
National Poetry Month." Speaking about the writing world, I already received, sometime ago, the
catalog of
Iowa Summer Writing Festival from The University of Iowa. I still remember fondly the 9
summer days in 2005, when I took two advanced poetry workshops, by Karen Subach and Jan
Weissmiller. From the new catalog, I see that the two poets and writers are giving their courses as
well this summer.

In the poetry courses that I took over six years ago, I met and learned from other poets and our
instructors; as well as enjoyed what the famous city of writers, Iowa City, has to offer.
University of
Iowa has a very well-known reputation of having a very strong creative writing program. My teachers
were very kind and supportive, so were all my classmates. Jan Weissmiller patiently guided us on how
to trim our long poems to shorter and more powerful and effective forms. You can compare yourself
this poem of mine "The Unrequited Love"
BEFORE and AFTER trimming in her class.

Karen Subach, knowing that I am a Muslim -- and judging from her expression, it's rare that a Muslim
poet takes her poetry class -- was exceptionally encouraging. Repeatedly, in different occasions,
when she and I had our own time to exchange  words, such as during her conference with me, she
expressed: "When I read your folder, I told myself, this is finally a woman who is going to open many
people's eyes about Islam through her poetry." And I felt very humbled. It just happens that in the past
few years, I have been engaged in an Islamic poetry writing project, and I brought with me few of them
to share and for critique in our workshop. The two titles that especially attract attention are: "
Min Ay
Balad Antum?" in Weissmiller's class, from the notes that I received from my classmates; and  
Makkah Al-Mukarramah" discussed in Subach's class. When we parted in our farewell party, again
Subach said: "Ninie, thank you so much for sharing and opening your friends' eyes about your
culture." And I knew she genuinely meant it. Subach herself meet international Muslim students
frequently, according to her, at the
Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

I hoped to be a better and more productive poet, implementing what I have learned and absorbed in
Iowa. It's not easy, especially since I have already had my own style and background of what I called
the 'Eastern way of expression.' I found the American approach is very direct and immediate, seeking
to express the moment's image, gearing to the end result, which, by the way, has its own merit. "Less
is more," the classmate next to me emphasized.  Whereas, mine  tends to be lengthy, in emotion,
words and sound play. Some of my poems are short, but many of them are lengthy, when I want to tell
a story. Often the language of expression I use is uncomplicated, almost like a prose. But that's just it!
That's how a prose poem style emerged. One thing, for sure, I am not going to stop only at Iowa City in
searching to perfect my poetry craft. I shall keep learning from many sources. The Poet Laureate
Rabindranath Tagore once said that 'When you seek knowledge, you must be humble.' And I keep that
in mind. One thing I surely want to do, I hope to return, Insha Allah, on God willing, to the Festival in
Iowa in the future years. Like a traveler who thirsts for water, I am continuously  feeling thirsty of
knowledge and anxious to fill in as much as possible.

Now that summer is approaching, everybody is happy to be able to enjoy more sun, longer day time,
do more outdoor activities and have more opportunities to explore things, hobbies, and places.  The
challenge in summer, though, is how to keep cool when it already becomes too hot, in order to stay
comfortable, so as to keep going for our work, studies, and families. Therefore, among the busy
schedules, let's take good care of ourselves, and I wish you have a good year and good luck in your

With warm regards and continued success throughout the year 2012.

Ninie G. Syarikin
House of Creative Writing
Spring 2012
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