New Voices #11 - Featuring Laila Nawsheen and Fiona Kay

Fri, 21 August 2020

New Voices episode #11 poet Laila Nawsheen critiqued by greeting card founder Fiona Kay. How many words does it take to hit home truths? Not many at all.

By Maria Issaris, Producer of New Voices.

Poetry like Laila’s - it ambushes you. And this from someone who dodges poetry as eagerly as a normal person would dodge a bullet. If I can see it coming and I have the opportunity, I’ll duck and run in the opposite direction. And then you meet people like Laila Nawsheen. Laila joined our writers group and sat quietly for weeks on end, not uttering a word, explaining she suffered from severe anxiety. We left her alone, respectfully. She did look, after all, like the meekest and sweetest of all the creatures on God’s earth. Finally she spoke, and uttered the word ‘poetry’. Well, too late for me to run for the door. So I sighed, sat back; the room stilled as she opened her iPad. And then Kapow. The whole room was detonated. We picked ourselves up from the floor, and looked at each other saying - What the hell just happened? We had been poetry-bombed.

Good poetry. What makes it work? Trying to explain it is like trying to catch mist in your hand - it melts and its mystery stays intact. Laila takes little everyday events - like leaving the iron on by mistake - and with a few harmless twists of words, spills out a story of motherhood and death and love and lust and alarming abuse. Yet where are the words - where is the plot - whoosh it melts - as if each word is one of those huge coloured soap bubbles that float arrhythmically before you, and then burst, leaving sprinkles of dew all over you, and the shine of the rainbow colours imprinted in your eyes.

Is vulnerability a strength? Is admitting your weaknesses a way of scaffolding them and creating something for you to build on? This is the discussion that Laila’s critiquer, Fiona Kay, engages in. Fiona is a woman who has tried in every way possible to disengage herself from her artistic nature and the world of the arts. She was a child actor, plucked from a schoolroom in Auckland, who thereafter, and with great determination, made every attempt to quash her creative instincts by becoming a high end administrator.

‘No starving artist future for me,’ she kept saying. But screenplays and stories, and poetry and design and artistry of all descriptions kept emerging, to her great annoyance. Finally, on the edges of time she had left in her busy days working in a major Sydney hospital, she created a platform for sympathy cards that were honest and real and spoke to people of grief with beauty. Recently I read some of her cards and the few simple words and graphics were beyond moving.

So, vulnerability, it can be strong, and it can be beautiful. Listen on to these two wonderful women laying it on the line for us.

Laila Nawsheen


Image: Laila Nawsheen

Day job: Administration Officer

Writing: Poetry

Laila is a Sydney-based writer, currently living in the inner west and working part-time for a not-for-profit public health charity in Surry Hills. A single mum to two cats, she is committed to giving her furry little ones a life with more privileges and opportunities than she ever had. Her body of work is preoccupied with the interplay of gender politics, factors that contribute to an individual’s vulnerability, childhood trauma and the different ways these forces manifest to create the illusion of power within a person, and influence relationship dynamics across society. She won the Editor’s Award for her poem, “Never left the iron on again” in the 2019 ZineWest competition.

Fiona Kay


Image: Fiona Hay

Day job: Executive Administration Manager for a public hospital

Writing: Greeting cards, film scripts in the bottom drawer, blogs in waiting

Fiona was a child actor from New Zealand who made the leap to the big pond and sunk her career in the process. A chequered trail of administration roles in various industries including advertising led to a craving for a creative life. She is currently launching a greeting card and stationery business, which seeks to honour, represent and inspire. When not swearing her way through the build of her new website, Fiona can be found cuddling her feline kids, walking in nature and drinking wine in the sun with her beautiful partner.

On her New Voices experience: "It was an absolute privilege to critique the amazing Laila. Her poetry affected me deeply, reducing me to tears while making me appreciate the beauty of her writing. May New Voices long continue to showcase up and coming talent, unique perspectives and diversity of experience. Thank you Maria!”

Episode 11 is being broadcast at 5.30pm on Monday 24 August, and repeated at 1.30pm on Sunday 30 August! Tune in on 2RPH - 1224AM, 100.5FM, digital DAB+ and web streaming -