Why call any of it back? Tarfia Faizullah asks in her gorgeous and harrowing debut collection, Seam, winner of the 2015 Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award. The answer lies in the notion of legacy, our relationships to the troubled histories we inherit, how a landscape of the past can become a veined geography inside you, another body inside your own demanding reckoning, a just articulation. In poems made more harrowing for what’s not said—the poet’s elegant and wise restraint—we confront the past and its aftermath in the lives of women interrupted by violence and brutality and loss. Memory and the journey back are always fraught with difficulties. It wasn’t enough light to see clearly by, she tells us, but I still turned my face toward it. Tarfia Faizullah is a poet of brave and unflinching vision and Seam is a beautiful and necessary book.
—Natasha Trethewey, Poet Laureate
Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam reaffirms that imagination is the backbone of memory, the muscular fiber that enable us to re-grasp our humanity. Raised in West Texas, she examines the catastrophe that haunted her parents’ life in America and in turn haunted her, the sisters, aunts and grandmothers raped in Bangladesh in the 1971 liberation war. With patience and immaculate lyric precision, and with sublime attention to language and the courage to interrogate her privilege and curiosity, Faizullah twines a seam where the wounds are re-membered, fingers quivering, spooling and unspooling what know of healing. This is a powerful debut, a reminder that some things should perhaps never be forgiven, a poignant record set against forgetfulness.
–Khaled Mattawa, Chancellor of Academy of American Poets
How thin the seam between this fierce book, and all the poet’s countrypeople who haven’t lived to read it. Faizullah has made a courageous and shaming book. How thin the seam between courage and shame. I hope this book will be translated everywhere.
–Jean Valentine, National Book Award Winner
Seam is a stunning double-portrait of the artist as the visitor and as the visited. It showcases a place where, against all odds, “…it is still beautiful to hear the heart…” This is a poetry of news–where brutality, desire, and beauty combine to form a rich testament of what poetry can do: to sing and disturb us awake, and leave us feeling more alive than ever before. Tarfia Faizullah’s debut collection of poems is simply a triumph–it’s pure fire in your hands.
–Aimee Nezhukumatathil, National Endowment for the Arts Grant Winner
“There is poetry here: our living language pulled into shape by hunger and intelligence.”
“Tarfia Faizullah moves across landscapes and time to piece together a familial tragedy which presents the reader with a legacy of loss, violence, and pilgrimage.”
–American Literary Review
“Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam shows us that history should admit the emotions that come with more personal memory and, more radically, that memory can include even that which did not happen to ourselves or to the ones we love. Poetry can best address the horrors of history—and of the present day—through such a gathering of the impersonal and intimate.”