Born 1974 in Beirut. Lived most of her life abroad between Cairo, Spain and France due to the Lebanese civil war. Majored in Mass Communication and Journalism at the American University in Cairo in 1997. Issued nine poetry collections: Café Bird 1994, Angels’ Hideout 1995, Unique 1996, Temporary Sun 1998, No Way Out 1999, A Presence Called Love 2001, Blind Lantern 2002, Envisioning the Scene 2004, Junk Words 2006.
She resides since the year 2000, in Beirut, the city of myths/the myth of a city. She writes, draws and dreams.
LR: Hi Suzanne
SA: Hi Maroun. Hi everyone at lebrecord.com
LR: What’s your favorite color?
SA: White. The most powerful absence, and presence, of colour.
LR: You come into the visual arts from a different background than most artists, from poetry. When did you start experimenting with drawings?
SA: As a very young child. There is a story about me “sketching” on my parents’ marriage contract when I was two! I saw that “first sketch” a few years ago: a couple of circles and some scattered lines. Nothing impressive of course 🙂 My mother also tells me that, since that incident, they used to hide any pen away from my reach in the house, because I used to draw all over my dolls, on their faces, arms, legs, and their dresses. In primary school, my teachers praised a promising talent in drawing, and asked my parents to encourage me, which they kindly and generously did. But then came a sudden turning point. I dropped my dream of becoming a painter and started writing. I found, in language (in Arabic language) my voice. Most probably because I left my country at an early age, due to the Lebanese civil war, and living in foreign countries and cultures (mainly Spain and France). I believe it was a matter of seeking and reaffirming my identity. Years passed, and when I returned home, with the beginning of the new millennium, I found myself drawing again. That’s when I issued my sixth poetry collection “A Presence Called Love”, in 2001. A poem of words and drawings. The drawings are part of the poem’s structure and meaning in the book, and not just marginal ornaments to accompany the text. It took me some time to draw without thinking of words, but what moves me in a drawing, of mine or of another (especially that I have always been a close follower of visual arts), is its poetic source. I guess poetry is my core, because even when I read a novel or watch a movie, it is the poetry in it that moves me. During the last war in Lebanon, I started working more seriously on my painting. Experimenting and painting without fear, maybe for the first time in my life. Writing was impossible. Words were too painful. Thinking about it now, I find it quite interesting how a war took me away from drawing as a child, and another war brought me back to it. A full rotation, a complete circle.
LR: How do you describe your art work?
SA: I believe art describes and defines itself, and any attempt to explain it ruins it. Just like the mischievous adventure of capturing a butterfly. Yet I do find my work very influenced by Joan Miro, as well modern Japanese art. Childish and simple in form, but full of questions.
LR: It is quite evident that you are working in a very specific drawing style, with carefully selected drawing materials to convey a carefully crafted mood for your drawings. How did you arrive to these selections?
SA: True. When I paint, I rarely allow coincidence. My senses are usually seeking a certain effect, an embodied imagination. I guess that reading a lot of paintings, throughout the years, gave me a certain ability to link vague ideas with concrete forms. Let me put it this way: I rarely sail without a destination in mind.
LR: How does your poetry and art relate to each other, and how do they affect each other?
SA: I feel my poetry and art are my two eyes, my pair of hands, my walking feet on the ground, on water and over the rainbow. They work together, they complete each other. Without one of them, I would feel handicapped. I wonder now how I lived all of these years, before painting, seeing with one eye, using one hand only, and jumping on a single leg!
LR: You have published many books of poetry and you included some of your artwork on your books. Do you feel that the mood of your artwork complement the mood of your poetry?
SA: Sometimes I do feel that way, and that’s when I use my own work for my poetry collections. Out of nine books, only two included drawings of mine: “A Presence Called Love” 2001 and the cover of my last book “Junk Words” 2006.
LR: Do you have any plans for publishing a book of drawings alone?
SA: I have a dream. I dream of a first exhibit and an accompanying book, of catalogues, postcards, stickers, dolls and artifacts of my little colored creatures. I admit I am lazy when it comes to exposing my work. I guess I am too absorbed into the work itself, and my shy laid-back nature restricts me to a great extent.
LR: Where do you find the artistic themes for your drawings?
SA: In my childhood. In my memory, and in my dreams. In the past and in the future, and in the details of everyday life. In the suffering of others, and my own.
LR: There is a definite relationship between poetry and the visual arts. How do you describe it?
SA: Like the relationship between the heart and the veins. I believe poetry is the heart of all arts, and it channels its red warm blood through the other arts to create life and sustain it. Yet poetry owes a lot to the visual arts. Without imagery, for example, poetry is as good as dead.
LR: Any last words for our readers?
SA: Thank you for reading my interview. I hope you find in it, and in my work, something that strikes your souls and moves you.
LR: It was a pleasure Suzanne. We’ll keep our news section updated with your newest.
You can reach Szanne at her website
and at her blog
You can email her at suzanne_alaywan[at]hotmail[[dot]]com