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Me, Rain, and a Hired Taxi

The translations are not without their awkward moments, but when writing about those moments that transcend language,...

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Tactile, thoughtful quatrains celebrating individual identity and experience, translated from Persian.

For most Western readers, Persian poetry might conjure few associations beyond Rumi or Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Perhaps aware of this, Safdarian (I Want to Follow the Sun, 2011) makes sure to honor his own indebtedness to his better-known forebears: “What I need from the universe: a nice time…yes, / a bit calm, and a friend with a flute, / that we may read The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam / and drink together a little wine.” This vignette also serves as an invitation and instruction on how best to enjoy Safdarian’s poetry. Composed in the traditional Persian do-bayti couplet style and set with the original Persian facing Safdarian’s English translations, these 192 quatrains feel simultaneously foreign and familiar. There’s a touch of exoticism in Safdarian’s soft mysticism—“and I have to be beyond my body. / I have to be the power of thoughts from all varieties”—and in his references and cadences: “He was looking for you from Shiraz to Rasht / in alien roads and fields. / Although he could not find you during daylight, / he continued to look for you even at night.” His English translations can strike both the eye and ear as distinctly non-native, a problem he acknowledges: “A living person gave birth to a poem. / A translator killed the poem through translation.” Nevertheless, Safdarian’s primary mood is passion, and passion, it seems, does translate well. Though he writes about a myriad of subjects—war, poetry, racism, the importance of honoring the individual—this passion ensures that his romantic poems, of love gained and lost, are the best of the bunch. Even the unsure English that emerges can be read as an understandable loss of coherence by the stricken narrators. His take on loss is often powerfully direct and always felt in a deeply corporeal way. In “End,” the narrator, crying, laments the loss of a lover—“My eyes left me after you. / My heart stayed in my chest and decayed”—while in “The Time 2,” the narrator’s undoing is the appearance of the beloved: “I saw you; my heart unclenched, was lost.”

The translations are not without their awkward moments, but when writing about those moments that transcend language, Safdarian seems to find exactly the words he needs.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496990044

Page Count: 200

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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ONCE UPON A GIRL

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

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Keridan’s poetry testifies to the pain of love and loss—and to the possibility of healing in the aftermath.

The literary critic Geoffrey Hartman once wrote that literature—and poetry, in particular—can help us “read the wound” of trauma. That is, it can allow one to express and explain one’s deepest hurts when everyday language fails. Keridan appears to have a similar understanding of poetry. She writes in “Foreword,” the opening work of her debut collection, that “pain frequently uses words as an escape route / (oh, how I know).” Many words—and a great deal of pain—escape in this volume, but the result is healing: “the ending is happy / the beginning was horrific / so let’s start there.” The book, then, tracks the process of recovery in the wake of suffering, and often, this suffering is brought on by romantic relationships gone wrong. An early untitled poem opens, “I die a little / taking pieces of me to feed the fire / that keeps him warm / you don’t notice that it’s a slow death / when you’re disappearing little by little.” The author’s imagery here—of the self fueling the dying fire of love—is simultaneously subtle and wrenching. But the poem’s message, amplified elsewhere in the book, is clear: We go wrong if we destructively give ourselves over to others, and healing comes only when we turn our energies back to our own good. Later poems, therefore, reveal that self-definition often equals strength. The process is painful but salutary; when “you’re left unprotected / surrounded by chaos with nothing you / can depend on / except yourself / and that’s when you gather the pieces / of the life you lost / and use them to build the life you want.” The “life you want” is an elusive goal, and the author knows that the path to self-definition is fraught with peril—but her collection may give strength to those who walk it.

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72770-538-6

Page Count: 196

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Endings

POETRY AND PROSE

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

A slim volume of largely gay-themed writings with pessimistic overtones.

Poe (Simple Simon, 2013, etc.) divides this collection of six short stories and 34 poems into five sections: “Art,” “Death,” “Relationship,” “Being,” and “Reflection.” Significantly, a figurative death at the age of 7 appears in two different poems, in which the author uses the phrase “a pretended life” to refer to the idea of hiding one’s true nature and performing socially enforced gender roles. This is a well-worn trope, but it will be powerful and resonant for many who have struggled with a stigmatized identity. In a similar vein, “Imaginary Tom” presents the remnants of a faded relationship: “Now we are imaginary friends, different in each other’s thoughts, / I the burden you seek to discard, / you the lover I created from the mist of longing.” Once in a while, short story passages practically leap off of the page, such as this evocative description of a seedy establishment in Lincoln, Nebraska: “It was a dimly lit bar that smelled of rodent piss, with barstools that danced on uneven legs and made the patrons wonder if they were drunker than they thought.” In “Valéry’s Ride,” Poe examines the familial duties that often fall to unmarried and childless people, keeping them from forming meaningful bonds with others. In this story, after the double whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hits Louisiana, Valéry’s extended family needs him more than ever; readers will likely root for the gay protagonist as he makes the difficult decision to strike out on his own. Not all of Poe’s main characters are gay; the heterosexual title character in “Mrs. Calumet’s Workspace,” for instance, pursues employment in order to escape the confines of her home and a passionless marriage. Working as a bookkeeper, she attempts to carve out a space for herself, symbolized by changes in her work area. Still, this story echoes the recurring theme of lives unlived due to forces often beyond one’s control.

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5168-3693-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2016

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