"Transnational identity and diasporas are major themes in my work
and a central part of my identity," Shenoda said. "I live in
two worlds at once and this forces me artistically to create a third
space -- not quite Egyptian, not quite American. This is my way of reinventing
the world through the word."
Shenoda, who received a master of fine arts in creative
writing from University of Arizona, said his interest in writing poetry
began in adolescence
when he explored the literature that emerged from the black arts movement
in the 1960s.
"Their political and cultural identities are at
the forefront of their work and they utilized the language of their
daily lives," Shenoda said. "This debunked for me the notion
of poetry as a high art of and for the elite." One of these influences,
poet Sonia Sanchez, wrote the introduction to "Somewhere Else." She
calls Shenoda's poems "convocations of shimmering truths sequestered
on our feet. Hands. Eyes. Blood."
The music of Bob Marley also influenced Shenoda. "I
don't separate music and poetry," Shenoda said. "To me they
are really the same form." He performs his poetry often while
improvising with musicians.
Prior to joining the faculty at SF State, Shenoda was
on the marketing staff at Copper Canyon Press and Heyday Books in Berkeley.
poetry at Tucson (Ariz.) High School, in various Poets in the Schools
programs and at East Oakland Community High School. He considers his
work with ethnic studies students at SF State a source of inspiration. "They
learn that poetry is a matter of social discourse and a way to understand
what's going on around them," he said.
Shenoda said that, like most poets, he writes "to
find new ways to evaluate the contemporary world. It's clear looking
at the world around
us that we have to create a different way if we are to continue to survive
on this planet."
In addition to teaching Introduction to Ethnic Studies
and Arab and Arab-American Literature this semester, Shenoda will continue
to promote "Somewhere
Else" throughout the United States.