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[ G A T E S ]

Publication Date: October 2017


Gate: threshold, corridor, barrier. Sahar Muradi engages power, war, illness, and language to evoke the physical and literary passages that accompany individual and collective loss. In [ G A T E S ], the loss of a homeland meets the loss of a dying father meets the loss of meaning amidst war, racism, and environmental degradation. Muradi’s highly charged, deeply transformative poems interrogate the contemporary moment’s collapsing of space, where near and far, private and global are no longer distinct. In the sometimes elliptical, sometimes rapidly changing spaces inhabited by these sixteen poems, languages of politics and intimacy exist in constant tension so that the sweeping violence of an occupied Afghanistan cannot, for instance, be separated from the intimate violence of the dying of a loved one. Muradi’s speakers call out to us from a world of tightly-braided oppressions to ask how language can be a function of (in)justice, how a life is valued, and how poetry, like a gate, may function as a passage from pain to pain, promise to promise, truth to truth.


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Once, on the tarmac, among the cadavers of green tanks, military planes, the mountains encircling them, he kissed the black earth. It had been twenty-five years. Time hurried down his face. Clear, not clear, clear. Men elbowing over the bags. Here, brother, let me. One came smoothly, is that you, my brother, do you remember me, I am in a bad way. Again he became a boy caught by the weather, gave his arms, handed out his eyes, and kissed the stranger with a golden bill.


These charged, elliptical poems make space for the unknown and unknowable, even as they vividly summon the tangible body of the world. Shot through with sudden glimpses of violence and beauty, Sahar Muradi’s poems refuse us comfort or closure. They offer only what is—yet, paradoxically, haunt us with the sense that we’re standing on holy ground.

—Joan Larkin, author of MY BODY: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS

I get the sense reading Sahar Muradi’s richly layered and quietly transformative poems that what’s there is all that has to be there, that the poetry depends on nothing outside of the various shapes it takes, and that complex life conditions and feeling spaces are in a constant dance with certainty and doubt at all points, always on the move. There is an unfettered, inviting, and wryly unconventional voice at work in [ G A T E S ], one capable of making the necessarily enigmatic turns scale demands when distances known and felt on numerous levels have to be closed in on. These poems animate and search through multiple lived-in centers that are real and imagined simultaneously, always open, and always irreducible.


If you open Sahar Muradi’s [ G A T E S ] and follow each line into the entryways and departures, passed “convention centers and expos / and festivals that begin at sunset,” you will witness the poet’s memories as tiny explosions of intimacies that devastate with their precision and candor. On images of Ferris wheels and “prayer on the side of the road,” the poet “kneels and spreads [her] picnic” of wonder. Sahar Muradi makes sense of the fragments of memory, the broken buildings of Kabul, Mazar, and Panjsher, the innocence of childhood punctured by journey, a father’s illness, losing a language, and the politics of a war uninvited. Muradi beckons you, asks how you “authored poorer nations with the hope of freeing / others. The architects of what’s left.” Indeed the political act of poetry in this fierce collection is a pained beauty that does not look away as it rebuilds the human starting with the heart.

—Rajiv Mohabir, author of THE COWHERD’S SON and THE TAXIDERMIST’S CUT

About the Author

© Krista Fogle

Sahar Muradi

Sahar Muradi is a writer, performer, and educator born in Afghanistan and raised in the U.S. / is co-editor of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature / is co-founder of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association / has published most recently in Bone Bouquet and Dusie / is a recipient of the 2016 Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Award, a Kundiman Poetry Fellowship, and an AAWW Open City Fellowship / directs the poetry programs at City Lore / and believes in the bottom of the rice pot. saharmuradi.com

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