UC Berkeley student Fawziyah Laguide talks debut poetry collection ‘The Letter ‘P’: Power, Passion and Purpose’

photo of UC Berkeley poet Fawziyah Laguide
Sidra Seddiqee/Courtesy

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When Fawziyah Laguide was 14 years old, she began documenting the highs and lows of her adolescence through poetry. Now, beginning her third year as an undergraduate political science student at UC Berkeley, she has compiled these poems and published her first poetry collection, “The Letter ‘P’: Power, Passion and Purpose.”

Made up of three sections, “Power,” “Passion” and “Purpose,” the collection embraces a tumultuous teenage experience with sincerity, examining the beauty and sorrow of human nature from multiple angles. 

“It’s a collection about human beings and the struggle of being human even though we have only been human for 20 years or 18 years,” Laguide said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “It’s still a lot that we have experienced even in that short time.”

When examining the poems she had written throughout her teenage years, Laguide searched for patterns and points of comparison in order to aid the organization of her book. The first section, “Power,” is composed of poems that grapple with power relations including societal power, power dynamics within a family and the power one has over their own life. “Passion,” the second part of the collection, contains poems that eloquently represent heartbreak and love. The final section of the collection, “Purpose,” combines the themes of the prior two categories, bridging an understanding of one’s power and passion with their ultimate purpose. 

“Because of the power dynamics in your life, you have a different view of passion and you have a different level of passion for certain things,” Laguide said. “And because of that power and passion, you help to find your purpose.”

Given the complex themes interspersed throughout her poetry, Laguide felt it was significant to make an explicit distinction between her own poetry and typical Instagram poetry. Before the start of the collection, Laguide includes a disclaimer that highlights the depth of her poetic musings and her departure from solely focusing on themes of heartbreak. 

“Our generation has so many stories to tell,” said Laguide. “We can write about society. We can write about university. We can write about racism, sexism and sexuality. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to one genre. Even though we are young, we do have experiences and knowledge that we can share about very difficult and large topics that affect us just the same as they affect others.” 

Through her poetry, Laguide engages with these visceral experiences in order to represent all facets of life from attending university, to experiencing loss, to developing a philosophical understanding of life itself. The collection thus seems to reiterate the questions posed throughout youth, something Laguide further demonstrates given her writing process. 

“(Writing poems) sort of became a coping mechanism,” said Laguide. “Things such as going to college and bigger events in my life helped me write more profound poems and poems that actually had deeper meaning.”

Given the variety of poems presented in her debut collection, Laguide certainly succeeds in poignantly pondering life-altering experiences through her writing. Laguide’s time at UC Berkeley specifically manifests in one of her poems entitled “#1 University” in which she examines and critiques the college experience. 

“Sometimes you feel very isolated because there is a lot of competition within the university, so that helped contribute to (feeling) down,” said Laguide about her experience at UC Berkeley. “But, overall my floormates and other students that I have met have been very helpful and really fun to be around. They make the mood better and try to soften that isolation that you feel sometimes.” 

Though many poems in “The Letter ‘P’ ” encapsulate the suffering that accompanies the human experience, Laguide utilizes the final section of the collection, “Purpose,” to shine hope on humanity, emphasizing the significance of optimism in navigating adulthood. Laguide personally dignifies the final poem of the collection, “A Key to Heaven,” as one of her most impactful poems. Told from God’s perspective, the poem speaks to those in pain and offers a sense of resolve and comfort following a collection that, at times, explores heart-wrenching topics. 

“(‘A Key to Heaven’) is the poem that I feel represents the whole book because… after all of the heartbreak, pain and suffering, at the end of the day, you still have a chance to redeem yourself,” said Laguide. “There is still purpose in life even if you have not figured it out yet. Even if you don’t know what it is, it is still there.” 

This concluding sense of optimism fills the collection with resilience. “The Letter ‘P’ ” guides readers through a multifaceted view of humankind, juxtaposing the inevitable pitfalls of power structures and feelings of passion with the fulfillment of understanding one’s purpose. For her debut collection, Laguide is both candid and sincere in her poetry, something that is sure to continue throughout her journey as a writer. 

Sarah Runyan covers literature. Contact her at [email protected].