books, Immigration, People of Color, poetry, Political Writing, Reading, Women Writers

“Look” by Solmaz Sharif

It matters what you call a thing: Exquisite a lover called me.

Whereas Well, if I were from your culture, living in this country, said the man
outside the 2004 Republican National Convention, I would put up with that
          for this country;

Whereas I felt the need to clarify: You would put up with
TORTURE, you mean and he proclaimed: Yes

So begins Iranian poet Solmaz Sharif’s debut collection of poetry, and it is exquisite . . . IMG_0523and brutal. Sharif, like any true poet, chooses her words with precision, her layout with an eye for impact. Her poems look at the private and public ways in which we talk about, or are silent about, war. Sharif draws on her family’s fraught journeys and treatment: they are refugees and suspects, victims and perpetrators. As her family struggles both to find its footing as immigrants in America and to reconcile love of country and culture with exile, they also grapple with their new country’s inconsistencies, its hypocrisies, and its troubled relationship with Iran and its people.


over the globe debated and set to quota. A nation can only handle so many of me.”

Sharif uses brief bullets of language to draw attention to the pain and strife her countrymen face and to challenge their treatment both at home and in supposed sanctuary.

“According to most
definitions, I have never
been at war.

According to mine,
most of my life
spent there.”

Published in the summer of 2016, Sharif’s brief collection of poems have only become more urgent, more relevant, more important. In an era of increasing fear and misunderstandings, Sharif’s poems are political, personal, and imperative.

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