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.
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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.
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.
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.
UK-based writer, photographer and occasional musician Oz Hardwick brings us five prose poems inspired by the theme of dislocation. These five pieces featured here reflect an inherent desire to transform or rather re-envision everyday life through the poetic craft. The five prose poems published here project the poet’s ability to revisit situations and infuse symbolic value into seemingly ordinary moments to retrieve the hidden profundity from the everyday. The quotidian appears not only as a conduit but also as a catalyst of literary expression, one that the poet explores with greater range by employing his distinctive prose poem style. Hardwick states that these five prose poems are from a “current work on the small dislocations which fissure the surface of everyday interactions.”
Lauren Scharhag presents four of her poems, each with a distinctive poetic voice, with verses that transmit silence and subjective experience in the first person. The four maintain an equilibrium between silence, survival, and strength, where a sense of self prevails and maintains its permanence despite the transient nature of a life confronted by multiple challenges and struggles. “Rorschach” is inspired by “acid attack victims around the world” with such attacks “perpetrated usually against women by jealous or spurned men.” “Evacuation” communicates the experience of the poet in “evacuating from Florida to Mississippi during Hurricane Michael, a category 4 major hurricane, which struck in October 2018.” “Tiny Effigies” is inspired by “a visit to the Native American temple mound in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and the artifacts that have been retrieved from it on display at its museum, particularly the small effigy masks believed to be funerary art.” Finally, “Sunday” reflects “a small, intimate portrait of middle-class life in America, in which preparations are being made for the coming work week.”
In this poem, Omair Bhat explores the elusive nature of memory, envisioning it as a thing of two, the one who fights to remember and the one who withers with time and forgetfulness. The poem is presented as a monologue in search of a dialogue with the one who is absent and fading. The struggle for remembrance is at the core of this poem as its verses poignantly elucidate.