Shazea Quraishi is a Pakistani-born Canadian poet, playwright and translator.  Her poems have been published widely in the UK and US in publications including The Financial Times, Poetry Review and Modern Poetry in Translation and she has two poetry collections: The Courtesans Reply [flipped eye publishing, 2012] and The Art of Scratching [Bloodaxe Books, 2015].  Shazea has facilitated creative writing/reading and translation workshops in the UK and abroad in museums, prisons, refugee centres, festivals and schools and currently works with English PEN, Living Words, Translators in Schools and The Poetry School.  She is adapting The Courtesans Reply as a play.

Sneering Woman (Gertrude Schiele)

My brother wants expressive,

fine.  Wearing my best sneer

and my biggest, boldest hat, I pose bare-

breasted, aggressive.


Squatting Female Nude

He poses me with my arms behind my back:

I am not the Venus de Milo

– I am oh so alive –

my rouged nipples leap, my red hair crackles.



Note:  The title references an exhibition of Egon Schiele’s nudes at the Courtauld Gallery in London.  The subject of the two paintings challenges the traditionally passive role of the female nude model, meeting the gaze of the viewer with a defiant delight in her sexuality.  Schiele’s nudes were considered indecent and caused him to be imprisoned for two months in 1912.