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Sukun: New and Selected Poems

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New and selected poems from celebrated poet Kazim Ali

Kazim Ali is a poet, novelist, and essayist whose work explores themes of identity, migration, and the intersections of cultural and spiritual traditions. His poetry is known for its lyrical and expressive language, as well as its exploration of themes such as love, loss, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world. "Sukun" means serenity or calm, and a sukun is also a form of punctuation in Arabic orthography that denotes a pause over a consonant. This Sukun draws a generous selection from Kazim's six previous full-length collections, and includes 35 new poems. It allows us to trace Ali's passions and concerns, and take the measure of his art: the close attention to the spiritual and the visceral, and the deep language play that is both musical and plain spoken.

[sample poem]

The Fifth Planet

Come, early summer in the mountains, and come, strawberry moon,
and carry me softly in the silver canoe on wires to the summit,
where in that way of late night useless talk, the bright dark asks me,
"What is the thing you are most afraid of?" and I already know
which lie I will tell.

There were six of us huddled there in the cold, leaning on the rocks
lingering in the dark where I do not like to linger, looking up at the
sharp round pinnacle of light discussing what shapes we saw--rabbit,
man, goddess--but that brightness for me was haunted by no thing,
no shadow at all in the lumens.

What am I, what am I, I kept throwing out to the hustling silence.
No light comes from the moon, he's just got good positioning
and I suppose that's the answer, that's what I'm most afraid of,
that I'm a mirror, that I have no light of my own, that I hang in empty space
in faithful orbit around a god or father

neither of Whom will ever see me whole. I keep squinting to try to see Jupiter
which the newspaper said would be found near the moon but
it's nowhere, they must have lied. Or like god, there is too much
reflection, headsplitting and profane, scraping up every shadow,
too much light for anyone to see.

ISBN-13: 9780819500700

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Wesleyan University Press

Publication Date: 09-05-2023

Pages: 336

Series: Wesleyan Poetry

KAZIM ALI (San Diego, CA) was born in the United Kingdom and has lived transnationally in the United States, Canada, India, France, and the Middle East. His books encompass multiple genres, including poetry, essay, fiction, and cross-genre work. He is currently a professor at the University of California, San Diego.