Review: William Orem's "Our Purpose in Speaking" (MSU Press) — by Dustin Pickering

Dustin Pickering reviews “Our Purpose in Speaking” (MSU Press, 2018), the debut book of poems by Emerson College’s senior writer-in-residence William Orem, who recently won the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Award. Pickering consistently familiarizes readers with Orem’s poetry collection from a particular understanding that is in tune with the reviewer’s greater appreciation for poetry. In doing so, the reviewer situates Orem’s verses within a greater history of poetry inspired by an engagement with God, life, being, existence, nature and world from the optics of contemporary Christianity, and in particular Catholicism. For the greater readership, the review elucidates the relevance of such introspective and contemplative poetry with religious motifs and undertones as one that is equally innovative and in constant development, which is best exemplified by Pickering’s engagement with specific poems and with the collection as a whole.

Call to Submissions for Photographers: Kashmir - Paint the Day as Night

Inverse Journal invites photographers of all backgrounds to participate in a running series entitled “Kashmir: Paint the Day as Night” to present their black and white photography in a photo story format, with a maximum of 15 black and white photographs accompanied by descriptive captions contextualizing each photograph (maximum caption size should be one short paragraph or 100 words). The selected and published photo stories will be featured under the title “Kashmir: Paint the Day as Night [series number] – by [photographer name]” and will include an editorial introduction, with the photographer being credited as contributor on Inverse Journal’s platform.

Walk On: A Letter to Young Kashmiris — by Majid Maqbool

Journalist, editor and writer Majid Maqbool addresses the youth of Kashmir in this timely letter about the multiple ways in which they can create their own platforms and rely on alternative as well as indigenous media to amplify their voices while telling their own stories. The letter problematizes how Kashmiri youth are, and can be, misrepresented, with their words being misused and misconstrued by vested interests. The letter unfolds an inspirational and highly motivating core message: to be the author of your own stories, the narrator of your own tales and teller of your own truths, by seeking the appropriate platforms to do so. With a positive and uplifting tone, the epistolar piece provides informed suggestions, insights and tips by an experienced media professional about the ways young people in Kashmir can reclaim their agency and the proprietorship of their portrayals, their self-expression and their messages to the larger world.

Growing tulips: A Poem by Omair Bhat (in dialogue with artwork by Suhail Naqshbandi)

In the contemporary Kashmir of the artist and the poet, a counter-aesthetic has been developed to resist against the glamorous and synthetically beautified portrayal of the land as an idyllic Bollywood destination for tourists. One of the precursors has been a series of works (“There is more to…[‘paradise’ than meets the eye]”) produced by artist, designer and political cartoonist Suhail H. Naqshbandi​. There are other examples to such artistic productions in circulation, with paintings and contemporary artworks depicting the rural environs and the cityscape being obstructed from their usual serenity by excrescent imagery of militaristic objects invading the frame from a particular angle or corner.

In the case of Omair Bhat​’s poem “Growing tulips…”, we find a “match made in heaven” when it comes to the evident dialogical manner in which the poem reads in perfect metaphorical and allusive harmony with Naqshbandi’s ‘image as response’ to the ‘touristification’ of Kashmir’s tulip garden. Needless to say, Naqshbandi’s series merits deeper critical commentary of its own. Meanwhile, Bhat’s poem reinvigorates through the power of the verse that counter-aesthetic employed by Naqshbandi in his image-making. The two works, the textual and the visual, complement each other ad infinitum et ultra or at least till a touristic aesthetic continues to be employed to cover up the traces of a structural violence that runs deep within the land, far away from the superficial glamour and paradisaical allure that Kashmir accumulates from the oblivious and willfully oblivious tourist and visitor.

As an added bonus, Bhat (re)innovates on the idea of the title of the poem as its first verse, requiring the suspension of certain editorial conventions and demanding more attention from readers, from the uneven cadence of the first line to the last. Naqshbandi’s work does something similar, running vertically and in opposition to the horizontally placed billboard ads that run freely throughout Kashmir’s roads and highways. For this reason, the poem and the image are displayed side by side in vertical opposition to the horizontally aligned landscape depictions that Kashmiris are all too familiar with, especially in ads. As both works show, in this particular case, their parallel vertical scale allows for a greater depth required for the process of excavation, whether that entails the retrieval of a greater meaning or the uncovering of an interred truth.

Patriarchy: A Sanctimonious Affair in Kashmir — by Aamir Aijaz

In this acquaintance piece, Aamir Aijaz presents the problem of patriarchy as it relates to theological (mis)interpretations by those who preach about social life and cohabitation between men and women in Kashmiri society and the subsequent affair that such men are entangled in within their own mode of (un)thinking (or blind acceptance). In doing so, the writer falls short in imagining a socio-cultural reform of sorts to alleviate the hegemonic weight of a patriarchal worldview, which is far from being subverted.

The writer fails in providing the theoretical formulations required to instantiate thinking towards a sociological paradigm shift that would offset and defeat the patriarchal hold that maintains its hegemonic structural control in Kashmiri society and in several other places around the world. The writer also fails in realizing that identifying the problem is the first step of the process and that a grassroots conceptual and ideological framework is required to drive actual change initially by means of shifts in perspective, ideally leading to a reformation of sorts.

All such failures by the writer, Aamir Aijaz, point to the void left by the need for the progressive thinking that molds this short piece into being and gives it traction for some much-needed incisive thinking past the defensive and apologetic rhetoric of those who would potentially disagree with the writer’s ‘observations as denunciations.’ As such, the piece published here in the Acquaintance section dedicated to personal accounts, commentaries, testimonies and opinions, succeeds in fueling a conversation already in progress offline, such that any failures noted in this editorial introduction are merely byproducts of unforgivable flaws (within Kashmiri society) that the writer specifically points out and denounces. In that context, the piece is quite the success when it comes to inspiring criticality towards its subject.

Of course continued repression, mass polarization, alienation and subjugation under a militarized state has not helped, instead doing the contrary by exacerbating a toxic environment for regressive thinking that then becomes the stick with which Kashmiris are struck, on a definitive basis by certain state-endorsed media outlets south of the border. Regardless, many such internally critical and collectively introspective conversations have been developing offline, with their manifestations emerging on the online platform from time to time, with this one being one of them. Any attempt by men to understand or address the complexities of systems that privilege their position and mere existence is perhaps in some minor way a small step forward towards questioning fundamental fallacies that we tend to take for granted as permanent fixtures that endow us with such privilege and position in the first place. In this, Aamir Aijaz’s opinion piece succeeds entirely to the point where his so-called failure to provide a solution to the colossal problem he presents is actually success inverted, or waiting to happen when more men who have witnessed what he relates herein take a stand.

The Damage is Ours Alone – A Poem by Zabirah Fazili

The Damage is Ours Alone – A Poem by Zabirah Fazili

There are no suitable words to describe or introduce Zabirah Fazili’s latest poem. Within such verses one finds an utterance that every Kashmiri mother, tending to her family, has brought to her lips—with the ringing of gunfire in the horizon or an eerie silence ushered in by the passing of daylight. That utterance is one tragically guided by an intuition that Kashmiri mothers have—a sixth sense that connects them to those who they love with devotion, as if their spirits lived within those loved ones. In interviews and testimonials by many mothers of Kashmir, when they narrate the happenings of a horror that has left an open wound in their hearts and memory, they often recall the day when trauma took shape due to a horrific event—and they refer to something odd, an ominous sign, or some glitch in their quotidian space on that fateful day of irremediable grief and pain. In her poem, the young poet captures—within that one utterance and the verses that contain it—an intuition that defies logic and resides in the presentiment of the mothers, spouses, siblings, daughters, and women of Kashmir who over decades of horrors have developed the ability to smell death in the air. That ability takes heartbreak and grief to abysmal depths where language fails to convey an understanding. It is here that Zabirah’s poetry succeeds to transmit such a heartbreak and grief through her verses because they are relatable to far too many Kashmiris confined, among other prisons, to the prison of silence.

L O S T – A Series of Photographs by Adil Manzoor

L O S T – A Series of Photographs by Adil Manzoor

With a camera in hand, Adil Manzoor returns home to his Kashmir, and in returning, he also returns to a silence that is familiar yet strange. In these photographs, Adil tries to locate that silence in multiple ways, where photography as an “objective” visual medium traces in black and white the subjective and intersubjective matter of thought, distraction, meditation, loss and entrancement. The young photographer finds these situated in a silence that is peculiarly Kashmiri and that is drawn on Kashmiri landscapes and on the Kashmiri faces he captures in black and white.

The Values of Independent Hip-Hop in the Post-Golden Era: Hip-Hop’s Rebels (2019, Palgrave Macmillan) — by Christopher Vito

The Values of Independent Hip-Hop in the Post-Golden Era: Hip-Hop’s Rebels (2019, Palgrave Macmillan) — by Christopher Vito

Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, this book uncovers the historical trajectory of U.S. independent hip-hop in the post-golden era, seeking to understand its complex relationship to mainstream hip-hop culture and U.S. culture more generally. Christopher Vito analyzes the lyrics of indie hip-hop albums from 2000-2013 to uncover the dominant ideologies of independent artists regarding race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and social change. These analyses inform interviews with members of the indie hip-hop community to explore the meanings that they associate with the culture today, how technological and media changes impact the boundaries between independent and major, and whether and how this shapes their engagement with oppositional consciousness. Ultimately, this book aims to understand the complex and contradictory cultural politics of independent hip-hop in the contemporary age.

Karamat Ali Khan and the Price of Snow — A Short Story by O. Kashmiri

Karamat Ali Khan and the Price of Snow — A Short Story by O. Kashmiri

In this third instalment of the Karamat Ali Khan series, O. Kashmiri brings us the fictional account of how the Mountain Side, along with the entire Valley, was sold without the consent of Karamat’s people, and without a means to contest such a ludicrous sale. With all faith exasperated, a miracle within the natural order of things restores what was taken—from the land of the people to the hope seeded deep within its soil. Read on to find out how the snow becomes the medium of that miracle to remedy such a forced mass dispossession.

The Cow Theft – A Short Story by Nageen Rather

The Cow Theft – A Short Story by Nageen Rather

Nageen Rather returns to Inverse with a new short story where a “paradox of quantum superposition” like Schrödinger’s cat, both dead and alive, involves the case of a cow lost and found. In both states of loss and re-encounter, the theft of the cow and its supposed return are a burden for the house it belongs to. The nuances of Kashmiri culture, its hospitality and its ways prove to be cumbersome while in the background an indefinite curfew rages on to make things worse in an unfortunate pairing of propriety and misery.

From My Memory to Her Heart – A Poem by Khawar Khan Achakzai

From My Memory to Her Heart – A Poem by Khawar Khan Achakzai

On August 5, 2019, Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution were revoked to enforce the status of Union Territory on the state of Jammu and Kashmir without democratic consent from the Kashmiri people. As a measure to quell expected upheaval, the internet, TV channels, mobile telephony, landlines, press, public transport and air travel were taken out of circulation by government order while more Indian troops were moved into the Himalayan territory. In the pitch drop silence of indefinite siege, a poet wrote from his memory to “her heart” not knowing when his message would get across, while even houses from adjacent neighborhoods were left without communication with one another. This poem by Khawar Khan Achakzai is a reminder-in-verse of that time still fresh in the collective memory of Kashmir and its peoples, and a testament to the fact that no lockdown, siege or territory-wide curfew can keep a longing Kashmiri heart from beating.

Kashmiri Haecceity — A Poem by Saba Zahoor

Kashmiri Haecceity — A Poem by Saba Zahoor

Saba Zahoor’s poem on Kashmir presents her place of origin as existing outside of a human-made time. Through her verses, the poet traverses multiple histories and addresses Kashmir as a being, an entity that has endured the heavy burdens of history. In that, Kashmir is a woman, an old woman who does not break, but withers slowly into inexistence or unbeing.

“Nothing moved except the mirage”: Analysing Fear and Freedom in Adania Shibli’s Minor Detail — by Dr. Chaandreyi Mukherjee

“Nothing moved except the mirage”: Analysing Fear and Freedom in Adania Shibli’s Minor Detail — by Dr. Chaandreyi Mukherjee

Dr. Chaandreyi Mukherjee presents an academic paper that is also a book review for Palestinian author Adania Shibli’s 2020 novel, “Minor Detail” (New Directions). A finalist for the National Book Award, “Minor Detail” is one of the most relevant works of contemporary Palestinian literature that connects 1949 and the Nakba with present day Palestine—as its protagonist digs into the past to uncover horrific truths. Mukherjee’s response and writing on the novel and its many themes is essential to understanding the greater depth to be found in decades of Israeli occupation over Palestinian land and life. The academic not only includes relevant criticism within this piece but also integrates theoretical formulations and observations by various scholars and thinkers that are pertinent to her own readings, such that through her ‘book-review-as-academic-paper’ one gets access to entire bodies and fields of knowledge, from postcolonial theory to resistance literature. Just as “Minor Detail” tells the story of a people and their larger history by means of a protagonist, Dr. Mukherjee’s paper offers multiple vectors of understanding in order to facilitate incisive critical engagement with this recent work of Palestinian literature.

Documentary Premiere — CRES: ONE LIFE

Documentary Premiere — CRES: ONE LIFE

In anticipation of the soon-to-be-released longform “Hip Hop Retrospective” piece commemorating the body of work that Cres has produced over the last two decades, Inverse Journal presents the premiere of Cres’ documentary entitled “CRES: ONE LIFE”—a film that gives an insight into this Hip Hop artist’s journey from his native Alicante (Spain) to the US, Latin America and the rest of the world. With Cres as a vessel and intermediary, the documentary uncovers a greater story of interconnectivity within various communities and diverse groups (within this genre), pointing to a larger world that the Hip Hop artist occupies and brings together throughout his musical trajectory, while at the same time sharing space with some of the most recognizable and underground artists, producers and industry creatives.

Prajnya Gender Talks: Muslim Women, Agency and Resistance in Kashmir — by Dr. Inshah Malik

Prajnya Gender Talks: Muslim Women, Agency and Resistance in Kashmir — by Dr. Inshah Malik

Dr. Inshah Malik speaks in relative detail about her monograph, “Muslim Women, Agency and Resistance Politics: The Case of Kashmir” (Palgrave Pivot, 2019). The book presents a considerable volume of research and knowledge about the agency of Muslim Kashmiri women and their varied roles in forming and shaping resistance, a subject that has been undermined, if not ignored, in the global arena of academic writing. As such, this seminal text serves to break multiple stereotypes and myths, while uncovering the history of a multifarious resistance by Kashmiri women, whether against state control, patriarchy (both militarized and societal) or political repression. As a visiting professor, Dr. Malik also gave a related lecture on the subject for the South Asia Center at the University of Washington earlier last year. Relevant links included.

Knowledge is like Teher.
A handful of cooked rice
a humble offering
to ward off the grief
from an entire century.
Whosoever receives Teher
does so with blessings
and well wishes.
Today the T in Teher
is the T in Taaleem
just as the K in Kashmir
is the K in your name.
From Teōtīhuacān to Tral
we make a humble offering.

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