OCTOBERS is a richly gripping poem-journey through lives and languages, migrations/transitions, with profound openness to curious complexity. Sahar Muradi, born in Afghanistan, resident of New York City, employs subtly understated images, reeling us in to woven mysteries of time and story. It’s as if Muradi is speaking up from a difficult, often silent space for those who are forced to flee, recalibrate, make new homes, somewhere, anywhere, right here: ‘this one morning with its distinct wink’—brilliant. I feel I have never read anything quite like this voice before—it’s rare and so important.
OCTOBERS traces the four great tumults of the author’s life, all of which originated in that jagged month of different years: The US invasion and occupation of her native Afghanistan, the death of her father, the sudden end of a love, and the birth of her daughter. The poems chart heartbreak along a helix, progressively and recursively, where “echoes are inevitable.” Ultimately, the collection is concerned with language—as witness and buoy in the white waters of loss, as a tool for violences small and state-crafted, as an asymptote both approaching ideas of “home” and estranged from it, and, beyond it all and still, as a source of wild wonder.
Charged with bracingly original sight and sensibility, OCTOBERS is a book that ruptures experiences of exile, ravages of empire, lavish griefs, and unspeakable bindings to reveal in them astonishing new musics. Muradi’s approach is radially expansive—this is a collection woven out of thick strands of complex feeling and thought, geographic and psychic mappings, rhythmic vitality and kinetic structure. Not hyperbole: each line on every page is coiled, indelible in its impression. How long have I awaited this book? Muradi’s poems are those I feel protective over, so deeply do they shake and remake me. Hers is a voice you follow to its interminable reaches.
With profound tenderness, Sahar Muradi’s OCTOBERS announces the arrival of a wonderful new poet. She undoes language, weaves it anew: through ellipses, through snippets of Dari and Arabic, all the while singing of ‘white phosphorus over raqqa,’ of the orange wings of monarch butterflies, and the orange uniforms of Guantánamo. The fierce intelligence of her poems insists on the power of language to bring close again, or at least retrace, what is lost. This is a voice I have been waiting for.
OCTOBERS inhabits a deeply intimate space between countries seeking wholeness in belonging. There is belief here: belief in father, belief in God, belief in the wilderness of motherland, and belief in home. The experiments in dialogue, in artistic form, poem as visual paintings, and the visceral momentum of the zuihitsu create a vocabulary of resistance and praise. There is complexity to the texture of the movement of bodies and its connection to self and the bonds that anchor it.
I’m in awe of this book. And proud. Sharp, keen, elegant, muscular: OCTOBERS engages both the glories and madness of humanity with refined, rigorous, unapologetic wonder. Exile, homeland, occupation, war—which is to say: love—and time. In this resplendent debut, we are witnessing the arrival of a formidable new talent. These poems contain words ‘whose feet never touch the ground.’ Muradi yields meticulous prowess—fired and bolting hard—right from the gate.
Sahar Muradi is author of the chapbooks [ G A T E S ], A Garden Beyond My Hand, and Ask Hafiz: A Migration Story Told through Poetic Divination. She is coeditor of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature and EMERGENC(Y): Writing Afghan Lives beyond the Forever War: An Anthology of Writing from Afghanistan and Its Diaspora, and coauthor of A Ritual in X Movements. She is a recipient of the Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Award and the Patrons’ Prize for Emerging Writers from Thornwillow Press, as well as a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Sahar is cofounder of the Afghan American Artists & Writers Association and dearly believes in the bottom of the rice pot.