Interview with a Birangona
2. Where did the Pakistani military take you, and were there others there?
Past the apothecary shop, shut
down, burned flat. My heart
seized, I told it to hush. They saw
its shape and weight and wanted
it too. Past the red mosque
where I first learned to touch
my forehead low, to utter
the wet words blown from
my mouth again and again. Past
the school draped with banners
imploring Free Our Language,
a rope steady around my throat
as they pushed me toward the dark
room, the silence clotted thick
with a rotten smell, dense like pear
blossoms, long strands of jute
braided fast around our wrists.
Yes, there were others there.
I met this poet, Tarfia Faizullah, when she was a Fulbrighter embarking on her research among the Birongana — women who suffered from the mass rapes during the brutal 1971 war which split Bangladesh from Pakistan. The poems informed by that research form the body of this book, interspersed with poems from the point of view of the interviewer—a necessary and insightful intervention. The result is a stunning collection that won a first book award and honors the survivors’ stories with beauty and restraint, never melodrama. Tarfia exercises skillful restraint, allowing the images to do most of the work, so that — as in the poem above — when the women’s actual words do come in, they land with tragic power.
Title: Seam by Tarfia Faizullah.
Recommended for: Poetry lovers and other humans interested in stories of resilience. Writers whose material includes deep trauma, whether historical or personal or both. Nonfiction writers interested in structures that open up the narrative, creating a structure with emotional logic rather than a strictly linear or chronological telling.
Hey, what’s #ReadWomen2014?
In response to lots of disheartening statistics about the gender gap in literary publishing, zillions of people are posting their favorite women writers on Twitter. I love getting so many great recommendations of what to read, so I’m joining the fun! You don’t have to have a Twitter account to browse what people are posting at the “year-long celebration of women’s writing.”
Want a writing breakthrough—fast? The amazing Writing from the Chakras workshop starts May 31! Click here to find out more and reserve your spot.