Crosslight for Youngbird

Asiya Wadud. Nightboat, $15.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-937658-87-8
Born of a colonial legacy—“lineage of slave marooned”—this wildly associative debut from Wadud works as a lyrical introduction to the phenomenology of border-crossing. By truck and boat, on foot and in the mind, beyond “the long arm of empire,” the journeys recorded here are harrowing, even lethal. A poem of witness may begin as a prayer for safe journey, and turn to elegy as “doom and resolve each keep their own metronome.” A lifeboat capsizes in the Mediterranean; families of refugees asphyxiate in a sealed truck en route to Austria. What keep the book from becoming a catalog of unremitting horror are Wadud’s capacious heart, inventive mind, and diasporic imagination: “when a country doesn’t claim you, just gather your own.” Her versatile forms convey “the exhilaration of life/ out of place.” Optimistically reversing Stevie Smith’s famous line, “Not waving but drowning,” Wadud writes, “I’m not sinking, I’m floating.” In its drawing together of disparate postcolonial experiences, the book conveys an ominous subtext: “don’t be so sure the river flows downstream. Truth be we maybe all long for the same long.” Even as Wadud marks the realities of inequality within empire, she delivers a universal message: “We’re all bobbing creatures amniotic salted on this island of deserted windmills.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/05/2018
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