cover image Inquisition


Kazim Ali. Wesleyan Univ., $15.95 trade paper (98p) ISBN 978-0-8195-7762-7

Ali (Sky Ward) focuses on questions beyond human knowledge in his fourth collection, one complicated by the metaphysical and embodied intersections of being queer, brown, and Muslim. “Someone always asks me ‘where are you from’/ And I want to say a body is a body of matter flung/ From all corners of the universe,” Ali writes in “Origin Story,” “But what I say is I am from nowhere/ Which is also a convenience a kind of lie.” The poems read like visions through fog, among them a dream of swimming from a shipwreck, a parable about an astronomer, and lyrical investigations into the utility of art. Ali’s impeccable word choices appear both highly controlled and effortless. His language drifts between the abstract, the spiritual, and the commonplace: “Someone I never yet knew/ Haunts me through the streets/ ‘Technique is hazard’/ to lonely evangelists// Opon night resound the impossible/ Empty cello case or drunk test/ Then every form happens/ An anarchy of sense.” The collection’s embrace of abstraction and passive voice is both strength and weakness; pages pass by without much firm grounding. Issues with vagueness aside, Ali confronts philosophical quandaries capable of leading readers into their own reveries of the sublime. (Mar.)