cover image Sky Ward

Sky Ward

Kazim Ali. Wesleyan, $22 (88p) ISBN 978-0-8195-7357-5

The title of Ali’s fourth collection signals two of the volume’s most salient tasks. First is wordplay: Ali moves far beyond wit, operating to reveal and make use of the latent meanings embedded within words and sounds. In passages such as “Body a window is thrown, is throne/ sewn along the seam of I// courage an empty bowl drained or teeming/ drowned or sown along what seems like sky,” rhyme and homophone attempt to bridge gaps in meaning. Ali’s forceful use of musicality is incantatory, pushing his lyrics from the realm of the everyday into the unknown or even the sublime. The title also signals expansiveness and confinement as twin conditions, an idea that reverberates throughout the book. Culling from autobiography, mythology, and poetic inheritance, Ali manipulates extremes of space and their implications, revealing “a fearsome range in a single body,” “a missing word where continents rub together,” and sky that is “not I/ sent down and endless/ nowhere emerging.” Ali also finds tension between the pulls of prayer and silence, void and profusion, the hidden and the overt. The result is a charged space in which a very contemporary voice takes on an elemental and numinous sheen. (May)