An academic and foreign service officer pens her second book of poems about Pakistan and the fate of Pakistani women.
Many readers know about the tribulations of Pakistani women solely through the story of Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old girl shot in October 2012 by a Taliban gunman for advocating for education for girls in her country. This collection presents a complex, richly textured exploration of the topic. It’s part a celebration of Pakistan, its layered past and tragic present, and part an agonized revelation and rejection of Pakistani treatment of women. Sharpe decries the arrogance of males who, through custom and cruel tradition, “suffocate daughters and wives / for the crime of being female / for the sin of having eyes / and lips and minds.” She does not cloak her poems in feminist rhetoric, however, instead presenting a nuanced and compassionate vision that yearns for a moral center to guide and restore Pakistan to its profound, lost beauty. In the poem “Static,” Sharpe celebrates how “those muezzins of temperate times / poured balm on the wounds of life.” Now, she writes, the call to prayer has been replaced by loudspeakers that carry the crackling, wired-up rants of a debased clergy that show neither love nor empathy. The author is a careful observer, reveling in the richness of juxtaposition and stark contrast; she writes of a Muslim Sufi shrine bedecked in marigolds and a Hindu temple violated by the “piss of desecrating boys.” But she also has a well-tuned ear for the subtle rhythms that accent the brutal Pakistani streets she conveys. This small book of verse will likely yield many delights for readers who want to glimpse the inner heart of Pakistan. This fiery, compassionate collection is introduced by the author’s friend, fellow poet Fahmida Riaz, winner of a Human Rights Watch/Hammett-Hellman award.
A tough, sensuous collection of poems about Pakistan.