In a poem that invokes Edward Said’s memorable words in the first verse, Bayed Mubarak surprisingly takes an altogether different direction in engaging with a language of simplicity and childhood. A bird, Captain Fluf’, becomes a metaphor for innocence at a time when children have been killed with bombs that wouldn’t spare pigeons or any other life form—all under the pretext of self-defense and counter-terrorism. The poem might not communicate such things overtly, but the type of anger that is born from unimaginable violence is a clear motif that draws the point home with sarcastic bitterness.
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Parray Shahid presents two grief-stricken poems that travel to a distant land and to its peoples, who in many ways are closer to the heart of Kasheer than any nearby neighbor—especially in what concerns a kinship formed from a state of subjugation, and sealed with a pact of resistance.
Abdulla Moaswes is originally from Jerusalem, Palestine. On a day such as this he presents a poem of remembrance against forgetting that returns to the days of his grandfather through a narration binding the dispossession and grief of one generation to another. The scholar and poet is inspired by Edward Said’s 1984 essay “Permission to Narrate” (published in The London Review of Books), where Said addresses the silencing and invisibilization that Palestinians faced in the international media while Zionists tirelessly propagated the myth of an Eden-like homeland—one that, according to them, was barren of inhabitants (conveniently made into ghosts) yet paradisiacal enough for an indefinite and still ongoing occupation. Beyond the need for an introduction, Abdulla’s poem speaks for itself, as his verses transit through time like remembrance transits through forgetting to keep memories alive, deep within the terrain of narration.
Young Kashmiri poet Zabirah Fazili returns with a timely ode to the perseverance of the Palestinian people at a difficult time made worse by an army of incursions. In expressing solidarity, her verses travel from the streets of Kashmir to the tear-gassed steps of a besieged mosque that has become a site of death, horror and injury in the holiest of months. The tenacity of these verses is a testament to the determination that characterizes two peoples, two lands and two struggles, with the poet seeing both as one.
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.
Syed Rabia Bukhari presents two of her poems that dig deep into vast human preoccupations such as memory, forgetfulness, loss and grief, with all of these congealing into a trace of the human experience that reflects perseverance in life and in living. What it means to be alive and more importantly what it means to have lived is perhaps best conveyed through the verses in these two poems.
All the way from Somerset (UK), Henry Bladon brings us two poems, “The Modernist Tea Shop” and “In the Moroccan Bookshop.” Both poems are set in enclosed spaces where books, readings, and writing converge to locate both the poet and the reader in ways that it is hard to tell them apart.
In this poem, Ashaq Hussain Parray retrieves the toil of hard labor coupled with expert artistry in an environment of bloodshed and grief that is weaved deep in threads like wounds destined to heal.
From the Indian diaspora, all the way from Chicago, Kashiana Singh brings us four poems that voice a nostalgia interpolated with greater preoccupations that linger like shadows crafted from verse.
From Nigeria, young poet Nnadi Samuel sends us two poems that versify a vernacular of violence and stoic grief with imagery that disturbs and words that reflect endurance and perseverance.
On this day commemorating Kashmiri Women’s Resistance, young poet and research scholar Marriah Nayeem brings us three poems like glimpses of life in Kashmir captured in the verses of a polyphonic poetic voice that traverses multiple generations of women. When Mikhail Bakhtin refers to “heteroglossia” as the “coexistence of varieties” and variations in a “diversity of voices, styles of discourse, or points of view” within a “singular linguistic code” (i.e. the literary work itself), one is compelled to think of the many ways in which Kashmiri women as young as adolescent girls and young women in their twenties are pushed towards an enduring wisdom attributed to the generation of their mothers and grandmothers. Such an occurrence is due, perhaps, to the harsh realities and struggles that encroach upon life in Kashmir, where children grow up without an experience of childhood attributed to other places around the world that are not struck by conflict and war.
Babra Sharief’s poem ties a knot between the grief of the most recognized Kashmiri poet in contemporary times and the grief found in the poetic voice of her verses. Such a poetic unfolding retrieves the sense of loss that Agha Shahid Ali mourned in many of his poems, thereby making such a lament the inheritance of the young poet and her readers, particularly the Kashmiri ones.
All the way from Reno, Nevada, Brian Rihlmann presents three poems that dig into the quotidian and retrieve from within its uncertain confines the greater meaning of a life lived.
Indian poet and essayist Preeti Vangani presents two of her poems, “Dinner Conversation” that contemplates “loss and the aging of grief” and “Fade-Out: Hymn” that meditates upon the “stubbornness to not let go of love that’s past its expiry date.”