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Bright Felon
Autobiography and Cities
Kazim Ali

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2009 • 112 pp. 6 x 9"
Poetry / Essays

$15.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-7276-9
$25.00 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-6916-5

$12.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-6993-6

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“Ali, journeying backwards through autobiography, writes an elegy for lost love and unrequited faith—another kind of exile.”—Lori Tsang, MultiCultural Review

Eloquent intercultural coming-of-age story

This groundbreaking, transgenre work—part detective story, part literary memoir, part imagined past—is intensely autobiographical and confessional. Proceeding sentence by sentence, city by city, and backwards in time, poet and essayist Kazim Ali details the struggle of coming of age between cultures, overcoming personal and family strictures to talk about private affairs and secrets long held. The text is comprised of sentences that alternate in time, ranging from discursive essay to memoir to prose poetry. Art, history, politics, geography, love, sexuality, writing, and religion, and the role silence plays in each, are its interwoven themes. Bright Felon is literally “autobiography” because the text itself becomes a form of writing the life, revealing secrets, and then, amid the shards and fragments of experience, dealing with the aftermath of such revelations. Bright Felon offers a new and active form of autobiography alongside such texts as Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, and Etel Adnan’s In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country. A reader’s companion is available at

A reader’s companion is available at

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Ali, journeying backwards through autobiography, writes an elegy for lost love and unrequited faith—another kind of exile.”—Lori Tsang, MultiCultural Review

“The pleasure of reading Bright Felon derives in large part from its invitation to us to give ourselves over to the music of language.”—Lee Sharkey, Beloit Poetry Journal

“The speed and energy of this language, and its confident movement, are undeniable and compelling….There is a lovely plenitude in the embroidery woven out of these journeys, inner and outer…the rich and nuanced tracings of contemporary experience Ali offers here are reward enough.”—Jeff Gundy, The Georgia Review

Bright Felon is a troubling work of unrelieved sadness and relentless self-examination and yet, for all that, it is also a monument to a yearning for oblivion, a desire so unimpeachable at its center it reminds us that there are no happy endings—only intervals of relief.”—Tyrone Williams, The Volta

Bright Felon will steal your heart and outrage your poetics. Part memoir, part trip book, part literary discourse, there is in it an urgent sense of a life lived in words. The tale is one of both innocence and experience. Rigorous, romantic, experimental, true, and yet mysterious, it is a book for the ages.” —Laura Moriarty, author of A Semblance: Selected and New Poems, 1975–2007

“Kazim Ali writes in Bright Felon a prose shaped by the various cities he has lived and loved in. This is a book that is so much more than memoir or autobiography. It is embodied and questioning and it carries through its politics a grace and generosity. —Juliana Spahr, author of Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You

Author Photo

KAZIM ALI is the author of two books of poetry, The Far Mosque (2004) and The Fortieth Day (2008). He is an assistant professor of creative writing at Oberlin College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the University of Southern Maine. He is one of the founding editors of Nightboat Books.

Click here for author's website.

This project is supported in part by an award from
National Endowment for the Arts

Thu, 6 Oct 2016 14:03:09 -0500