Synopses & Reviews
Sharif defies power silence and categorization in this stunning suite of poems and lyric sequences that examine the toll of war and the language of war on persons and tongues. Drawing upon the lexicon of the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms Sharif produces a document of her Iranian family history her personal life and a shared cultural history intertwined with war and surveillance: “Daily I sit/ with the language/ they’ve made// of our language// to NEUTRALIZE/ the CAPABILITY of LOW DOLLAR VALUE ITEMS/ like you.” Elegies for her Amoo (uncle) who was killed in the Iran Iraq War share space with lists of war atrocities and the banalities of military life lyric poems about her immigrant family’s experiences of surveillance excoriations of Israeli apartheid and war crimes and redacted letters to a detainee. Sharif returns repeatedly to the DOD dictionary terms resulting in brief fragmented and powerful accounts of terror: “they LOOK down from their jets and declare my mother’s Abadan block PROBABLY DESTROYED we walked by the villas the faces of buildings torn off into dioramas and recorded it on a hand held camcorder.” In form content and execution Sharif’s debut is arguably the most noteworthy book of poetry yet about recent U.S. led wars in Afghanistan Iraq and the greater Middle East. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
*Finalist for the National Book Award*
Solmaz Sharif's astonishing first book, Look, asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable loss of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, and sequences, Sharif assembles her family's and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare. Those repercussions echo into the present day, in the grief for those killed in America's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the discrimination endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter.
At the same time, these poems point to the ways violence is conducted against our language. Throughout this collection are words and phrases lifted from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; in their seamless inclusion, Sharif exposes the devastating euphemisms deployed to sterilize the language, control its effects, and sway our collective resolve. But Sharif refuses to accept this terminology as given, and instead turns it back on its perpetrators. "Let it matter what we call a thing," she writes. "Let me look at you."
Daily I sit
with the language
of our language
the CAPABILITY of LOW DOLLAR VALUE ITEMs
You are what is referred to as
--from "Personal Effects"