"Ali confronts philosophical quandaries capable of leading readers into their own reveries of the sublime."
How we answer to love beneath the lash of history
During the 1982 air strikes on Beirut, Faiz Ahmed Faiz asked his friend Mahmoud Darwish “Why aren’t the poets writing this war on the walls of the city?” Darwish responded, “Can’t you see the walls falling down?” Queer, Muslim, American, Kazim Ali has always navigated complex intersections and interstices on order to make a life. In this scintillating mixture of lyrics, narrative, fragments, prose poem, and spoken word, he answers longstanding questions about the role of the poet or artist in times of political or social upheaval, although he answers under duress. An inquisition is dangerous, after all, especially to Muslims whose poetry and art and spiritual life has always depended not on the Western ideal of a known God or definitive text but on the concepts of abstraction, geometry, vertigo. “Someone always asks ‘where are you from,’” Ali writes, “and I want to say ‘a body is a body of matter flung/from the far corners of the universe and I am a patriot/of breath of sin of the endless clamor/out the window.’” Ali engages history, politics, and the dangerous regions of the uncharted heart in this visceral new collection.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“What a gift Kazim Ali’s Inquisition is, what a generosity, in its sustained and sustaining inhabitation of the mystery. That, without ignoring heartbreak or rage, it understands that we are always ‘at the end of knowing,’ and shows us how we might reside there. And from which residence, Inquisition reminds me: love.”—Ross Gay, author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
“Ali’s use of the inherent musicality of language gives the poems an incantatory beauty…The poems feel vibrant and effortless, with one sound, one word, blending into the next. The resulting music, that lives in the mind, in the mouth, and the air, offers its own meaning, a sense of understanding on an elemental level that is satisfying and complex.” —Vandana Khanna, author of The Goddess Monologues
From the Book:
Who was I when I was writing this name
Copper oxidizes to green
Air packs itself tight in the seed
Seed unspools in the ground writing the biography of dirt
A little down the road another tower is going up
A man holds his briefcase over his head like an umbrella
In the rain bodies are soft and disappear into sound
On John Street almost choking on loneliness
And the waters of the river nothing so much as the air around us and ash
What would outlive us drifts sparkling into the October air
When you ask who am I past this storm-tossed vessel
The one you’re always bailing out
It is just another way to ignore this constant unraveling
This always reaching for an end when clearly there’s no end in sight
Poet, editor, and prose writer KAZIM ALI was born in the United Kingdom to Muslim parents of Indian descent. He received a BA and MA from the University of Albany-SUNY, and an MFA from New York University. Ali’s poetry collections include The Far Mosque, which won Alice James Books’ New England/New York Award, The Fortieth Day, and Sky Ward. Ali’s poems, both lyric and musical, explore the intersection of faith and daily life. His prose includes The Disappearance of Seth and Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities.
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