Tarfia Faizullah’s Registers of Illuminated Villages is a stunning exploration of what is taken, destroyed, lost and gained over time by war, by violence, by aging. It is an elegy that celebrates as it laments, unraveling both personal and large-scale trauma. The speakers of these poems consider the power and nature of memory post-9/11, especially as war represents a destroyer of human memory. How does one confront the losses of entire villages? How does one confront the loss of a single sister?
Faizullah’s poems are bodily and aromatic; they evoke fruits and spices, blossoms and skies. They rebel against the exoticizing of a place and its people; they confront ignorance and prejudice and hatred, saying, “Suck on a mango, bitch.” They explore the painful and precious memories of childhood, the simultaneity of religion and injustice. They are reverently irreverent. Faizullah gathers together lists of destruction and violence, exploring the lives that have been laid to rest beneath those numbers. Her poems are a tapestry of powerful voices, woven together with masterfully precise language; the speaker of each and every poem seemingly saying, “[t]here are so many bodies inside this one.”
Registers of Illuminated Villages by Tarfia Faizullah ($16.00*, Graywolf Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.