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It’s Sunday afternoon and I have just finished reading Kazim Ali’s newest collection Sky Ward (Wesleyan, 2013) for the second time. Instead of writing to you, I wish I could call you on the phone, or sit on your couch, on a park bench, and read the whole book to you out loud! Of course poetry should be read out loud and to each other, but Ali’s book seems so much a song that it feels disloyal to only write about it.
Kazim writes, “citizen of sound or stone/ at the boarder of light clamoring”
And he is a poet, a citizen, of both song (sound) and thingness (stone), his book full of an exciting musicality and lyricism, yet firmly anchored to the world we live in which is a kind of dream, is it not? Isn’t it a world that exists on the edges of our own understanding, at that boarder of light clamoring in the brain?
Kazim writes, “In the battle to own yourself/ whom do you fight”
Throughout this beautiful book, full of the elements of water and air, there is a battle to understand (or to know again) the inner-life and the meaning the poet has as a human being on earth.
Kazim writes, “Your own body is the only mosque you need”
Kazim writes, “there is no one to write this sadness how hard it is”
Kazim writes, “it hardly matters my silence/ weather moment or year”
In his new book, the poet teaches us about the holiness and fragility of the self, he attempts the work of writing about the elemental experiences of grief and love in such a way as to be given over completely to these mysterious gods, and for me the poet’s silences do matter! As this is a book you read and after reading can’t imagine not having it near you.
Kazim writes, “My heart is a nickel, unearthed and scent. We are manmade/ catastrophe”
Which is true!
The blurbs on the back of “Sky Ward” call for the book to be read out loud, they celebrate the lyricism of Ali’s lines, they praise the language he engages in. And they are right. But there is something else I would like to add to the cheer of the crowd, which is this:
Kazim Ali’s book is also a hymn, a hymn to the self, to the father and mother, to the lover, the sea and sky, a hymn to the city, and a hymn to the failure of being human, which is really a song about the success of our species! A book of celebration that should be celebrated!
Matthew Dickman is the poetry editor of Tin House and the author of All-American Poem (American Poetry Review/ Copper Canyon Press, 2008) and Mayakovsky’s Revolver (Norton, 2012). He lives and works in Portland, Oregon.