#30Authors: Rafia Zakaria reviews Look by Solmaz Sharif

30authors-2016-graphic_mini-768x768Today, as part of The Book Wheel’s annual 30 Authors blog event, I’m hosting Rafia Zakaria, who will be reviewing Solmaz Sharif’s “Look”.

#30Authors is an event started by The Book Wheel that connects readers, bloggers, and authors. In it, 30 authors review their favorite recent reads on 30 blogs in 30 days. It takes place annually during the month of September and has been met with incredible support from and success in the literary community. It has also been turned into an anthology, which is currently available on Amazon and all author proceeds go to charity. Previous #30Authors contributors include Celeste Ng, Cynthia Bond, Brian Panowich, and M.O. Walsh. To see this year’s full line-up, visit www.thebookwheelblog.com/30authors or follow along on Twitter @30Authors.


The Watched and the Conquered: Solmaz Sharif’s “Look”

By Rafia Zakaria

look“Whereas it could take as long as 16 seconds between the trigger pulled in Las Vegas and the Hellfire missile landing in Mazar-e-Sharif, after which they will ask ”Did we hit a child: No A Dog” they will answer themselves. So goes a line in “Look” the title poem in Solmaz Sharif’s collection of the same name.  Raw and searing, it is just one among many in the that take apart the deceptions of language, the obfuscations of words like sanctuary and sanitize, scan and scale, to reveal a bereft landscape where words are also instruments of war.

Represented in Sharif’s poems, the conquered are also the watched; the warmth of their bodies a signal to radars, their bodies lined up at airports no longer their own but the domain of those that search them, who call for “female assist” and tell you that they will touch your breasts and buttocks slide their hands over the front and the backs of your body. It is not simply the corporal that must be neutralized in a war where watching and looking is the mark of dominance, being made its subject the mark of defeat. In “Desired Appreciation” a psychiatrist asks the poet: “So you feel dangerous” and ” So you feel like a threat?

The answer in either case is yes, but is not of course the answer that is important, it is the mapping of minds that is so crucial to the existence of the surveillance state, patterns of radicalization thought up and then used to incriminate and indict, convict and condemn. In the decade and a half that has birthed constant war has also birthed its own vocabulary of destruction, of drones and radars, searches and seizures all. A film of apathy, viscous and opaque encloses the terror in this terminology, hiding the carnage, giving it the face of the benign and banal. Solmaz Sharif’s poems pierce that stubborn epithelium, that pretense of peace and ease, exposing the carnage of war, assessed here in verse.

About Rafia


Read more about Rafia on her website.

You can purchase a copy of her book, The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan on Amazon.

Connect on: Twitter | Facebook 

About “Look”

You can purchase a copy of Look by Solmaz Sharif on Amazon.

Find the author: Website | Twitter

  • I confess, I haven’t read a lot of poetry but this one looks like a good place to start. Thank you so much for sharing and hosting!

    • Thanks Allison. I’m a fan of poetry! I’ll definitely check this out, especially since the poems are about world issues.

  • Happy to have hosted #30Authors again this year. Thanks to Rafia for recommending this book of poetry. I love poetry and read them very often, however I haven’t read poetry that deals with world issues/war in a long time. So definitely thanks for this recommendation. I’ll be sure to check it out.