Writers Adeeba Talukder (‘05) and Tiffany Troy (‘14) Visit Stuyvesant English Classes

Stuy alumni Adeeba Shahid Talukder (‘05) and Tiffany Troy (‘14) visit Stuyvesant to present poetry readings and share their experiences as writers.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Stuyvesant alumni Adeeba Shahid Talukder (‘05) and Tiffany Troy (‘14) came to visit on November 21 and December 1, respectively, to present poetry and discuss their writing experiences with current students. Both writers performed readings of their own work and spoke in English teacher Emily Moore’s Poetry Workshop, 10th-grade Foundations of Literature, and English teacher Annie Thoms’s Writing to Make Change classes.

Talukder, a poet and Urdu translator, and Troy, a lawyer, Spanish translator, and writer, both reflect that their formative years at Stuyvesant played a role in their writing careers. “I really liked chemistry and math, and I didn’t really understand words. I thought they were so abstract, and they were frustrating because there was no right answer,” Talukder said. “Dr. Moore showed me that they could be beautiful, that in uncertainty, there was the ability to create. There was a space where you could find beauty.”

Troy still remembers the books she read in her English classes at Stuyvesant. “Stuyvesant is significant because I had my first beginning as a writer in Freshman Composition with Ms. Thoms and Ms. Zuckerman and in European Literature with Dr. Moore. I pull quite a few references from authors that I’ve first encountered in English class at Stuyvesant, like Dante’s Inferno, with its arc of the descent, the idea of [...] Virgil the speaker versus Virgil [the] guide, and the like,” Troy said in an e-mail interview.

Moore, who taught and stayed in touch with Talukder and Troy, spearheaded both guest speaker events. “Tiffany Troy had gotten in touch with me when her poetry collection ‘Dominus’ came out, and I had gotten in touch with Adeeba Talukder because I just taught from a new Islamic poetry anthology on Sufi mystical poetry [...] and realized I needed to speak with a scholar to better present the material. Amazingly, Stuyvesant had created that scholar in the form of poet, translator, and Sufi enthusiast Adeeba Talukder, so I reached out to her and she pointed me in the right direction,” Moore said in an e-mail interview. “Once we were in touch, I spoke with my colleague Ms. Thoms and we decided to invite Tiffany and Adeeba to speak.”

The English students had varying levels of experience when it came to poetry, especially the kinds that these poets focused on. Prior to the visits, students were introduced to the writers’ works in class. “To prepare for each author visit, Ms. Thoms assigned readings for us beforehand. These consisted of samples of their works, interviews, and other resources regarding their work and inspirations. In addition to the readings, we’d prepare questions based on our thoughts and reactions to the works,” junior Patrick Xu said in an e-mail interview.

Through the guest speaker events, students learned how to apply the poets’ writing experiences to their own work. “What stood out the most to me were the insights the authors gave on the poem-writing process. These include how the authors went about revising and improving their poetry, how they incorporated aspects of their everyday life into their poetry, how they approached difficult topics and developed their own voice over time, and how they were able to both incorporate external influences on their work while maintaining authenticity,” junior Natasha Hasan said. “My main takeaway, essentially, is how to implement their philosophies onto my own poetry-writing approach.”

Certain elements of the poets’ style and writing stood out to the students. “Talukder used ‘transcreation’ to describe her translation work, which will stick with me. When reading some of her translations, I noticed how she emulated so much emotion into her work by using certain words like ‘sexual’ and ‘crucified’ which suited her ‘translation’ to someone much more personal, thus becoming a different creation. I admired her word choice, and I’m inspired to think that if I attempted to translate work, I’d do so similarly, implementing some of my experiences into my phrasing,” Hasan said.

Both poets’ experiences as former Stuyvesant students further enhanced the poetry-reading events for the current students. “As an alum, [Talukder] shares so many memories with us regarding our workload, teachers, clubs, mental health, and more, so having the opportunity to hear all of that in her unique style of poetry was incredible,” Hasan said.

Troy and Talukder’s ability to connect with the current students made both visits even more inspiring. “It’s really wonderful to have Stuyvesant alumni who are writing poetry that is specific to their particular worldview and often language and culture, and it really speaks to our students here at Stuyvesant,” Thoms said.

The poets themselves also found their return to Stuyvesant nostalgic. “I was really excited to be back. When I was a student at Stuy, this poet, Ishlee Park, visited. I still remember her name, and I still remember some of the things she said. That was a really meaningful moment for me as someone who wanted to be a poet when I grew older and it just felt wild that I was sort of in the same spot,” Talukder said.

As advice for Stuyvesant’s young writers, Troy encourages students to draw from their background to write their own stories. “The nebulous idea of finding your own voice can really be built from your background, the languages that you speak, and through the literary tradition that you can learn from, build from, and deviate from in creating a voice best suited to tell your story,” Troy said.

Talukder hopes Stuyvesant students will confidently pursue their passions, just as she has done through her Sufi-inspired poetry. “It’s really easy in this world to be told that your dreams don’t matter and that you should let them go and pursue something more practical. [...] Don’t let go when people kind of make you feel like you need to. You kind of instinctively know what you want to do or where you want to go. Just don’t let go of that,” Talukder said.