Jessica Semaan is a poet. She writes english poetry and does it well.
Now a rising star of Medium (https://medium.com/@jessicasemaan) where more of 35K followers wait impatiently for her new writings on love, relationships and identity.
Born and raised in Beirut, Jessica moved to California to attend Stanford Business School. After a successful experience at Airbnb, she decided to set up The Passionco (http://www.thepassion.co/) a coaching and personal development company.
You can get a chance to see Jessica between San Francisco, Paris or Beirut where we have met her to discuss about home, identities and what does inspire her.
THE CONFUSED ARAB (TCA): The majority of your poems are about love and how we face (or not) difficulties in life. Is defining your identity was a hard process? Is it still on-going?
JESSICA SEMAAN (JS): Defining my identity is at the center of my inner path. A part of me is very attached and influenced by the Arab culture I grew up in: family values, hospitality, making your own rules (that is especially Lebanese), caring for your seet (reputation), joie de vivre, patriarchalism. The other part, that has been influenced by living as an adult in California, is influenced by individualization, becoming the self, solitude, sometimes loneliness, finding your own personal path, no judgement, and freedom. In my work as a writer, I am finding my voice conversing to being a blend of both worlds, without compromising or choosing, instead evolving.
TCA: When have you started to write? Any specific element which has triggered your writing?
JS: My great grand father was a well respected poetry professor in Beirut. My father is a journalist and writer. I'd like to think of the craft / art of writing as a gift that was passed down to me. The first time someone noticed my writing, was when I was 12. My french teacher, who got assassinated a few years later, approached me after winning a poetry contest, and told me to never stop writing.
I resumed writing consistently after encountering burn out about two years later. I have not stopped since.
TCA: In your poem you wrote "You are a refugee of a home that does not exist"- what's your relation with Beirut?
JS: I wrote a piece on being Lebanese. It summarizes my relationship with Beirut. Beirut and I have a complex relationship, of adoration and pain. Perhaps, Beirut mirrors my relationship with my mother. And just like a mother, Beirut will always be in my life. I have no choice.
TCA: What do you miss when you are not in Beirut?
JS: I miss the nights of Beirut. The energy that makes me come out every night. The warmth of people. The fact that we all kind of know each other, so it feels like a big fat family. I also miss the random tourists that come, because for them to come to Lebanon, they have to be risk takers.
TCA:If Beirut were a poem, what would it be?
JS: It would be a sensual poem to a woman who breaks men's hearts.
When you don’t know where home is
Wherever you go is a foreign land
Where you live is a city of roaming strangers
Where you came from is painful and deceiving
Where you are heading to is nowhere to be found
You are too old, too jaded, or too broke to go anywhere new
So you feel stuck, stuck in the walls of your own handmade jail
You are a refugee of a home that does not exist
Then you think, in your desperation, what if home is someone
The lover you have not met, the partner you already live with, your friend from childhood
Then you cling to that someone, you surrender to their love and approval
But the moment comes where you realize they are not home
They are them and you are you
There are no home you can own
And the truth hits hard: no one is home and no where is home
You envy even more those who have it, those who found it, those who brag about it
And in your misery, you stop looking for a home
It is neither north, nor south
It is neither east, nor west
Home is no place, no people
Home is moments
Moments when you feel safe and loved
Home is a stranger you meet on a plane who pours their hearts to you
Home is the scent of your favorite dish as you were growing up
Home is drinking with your best friend, laughing and crying at your bad decisions
Home is the laugh of your new born child