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Poetry Canadian


by (author) Doyali Islam

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Mar 2019
Canadian, Women Authors, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2019
    List Price

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From award-winning Toronto-based poet Doyali Islam comes a second collection of poems that investigates rupture and resilience.




How does one inhabit a world in which "the moon / & the drone hang in the same sky"? How can one be at home in one's own body in the presence of suspected autoimmune illness, chronic/recurrent pain, and a society that bears down with a particular construct of normal female sexual experience? What might a daughter salvage within a fraught relationship with a cancer-stricken father? Uncannily at ease with both high lyricism and formal innovation and invention, these poems are unafraid to lift up and investigate burdens and ruptures of all kinds--psychic, social, cultural, physical, and political.

Providing continuity over the poet's visually-arresting forms--including Islam's self-termed split sonnets, double sonnets, and parallel poems--is allied remembrance of the resilience of the Palestinian people. Yet, the work doesn't always stray far from home, with a quintet of astro-poems that weave together myth and memory.

Here is a poet small in stature, unwilling to abandon to silence small histories, small life forms, and the small courages and beauties of the ordinary hour. In these rigorous, intimate, and luminous poems, the spirit of the everyday and the spirit of witness bind fiercely to one another. heft is a ledger of tenderness, survival, and risk.

About the author

Contributor Notes

DOYALI ISLAM's poems have been published in Kenyon Review Online, The Fiddlehead, and Best Canadian Poetry, and have won several national contests and prizes. Doyali has participated in CBC Books' Why I Write video-interview series. She has discussed the value of silence on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition; language, form, beauty, and empathy with Anne Michaels in CV2; and the relationship between poetry and the body on CBC Radio's The Next Chapter. Doyali has also been interviewed about heft through Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre Podcast. A finalist for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize, 2020 Trillium Book Award for Poetry, and 2020 Pat Lowther Memorial Award, heft is her second collection of poetry.

Excerpt: heft (by (author) Doyali Islam)

so, it traced

the perimeter of its plastic cage,

wondering at the hard unseeable edge,

hurrying to make sense of its enclosure.

From "The Ant"

Editorial Reviews

"Laid out against the horizontal landscape of the page, from the very beginning these poems demand from the reader a reorientation, and set out a goal to teach us how to read differently--not only the poems but also the world. What is beautiful and successful here is the way Doyali Islam takes small moments and gives to them an incredible, sometimes aching, heft: the ephemera left in a pocket become a map leading us back to love; an ant observed on the floor finds its way onto a white page--a black mark effectively writing its own poem, ‘struggling to interpret its situation’. In each of these poems, Islam makes that struggle for interpretation both wonderful and worthwhile.” --Griffin Poetry Prize Jury Citation

"Formally innovative and emotionally resonant, these striking poems use their bifurcated structure to map a vast and varied terrain. Though each poem is split from itself, the 'contrast in [them] swells to friction' through Islam’s ambitious use of structure and lyric. Deftly stitching together a range of subjects, from diasporic experience to the experience of chronic illness, these poems are a master class in contrast and overlap; a study not just of how the body lives in the world, but how the world lives in the body." -- Trillium Book Award for Poetry Jury Citation

"In her sophomore collection heft, Doyali Islam unfolds multitude possibilities from poetic form. Through her split sonnets, double sonnets and parallel poems, Islam creates a delicate tension between histories and geographies. The author's attention to language – sonorous, limpid, and precise--is mirrored by her care for the surprising moments both outside her and within. By turns personal and political, her poems feel as though they could be folded over onto themselves, their sometimes divergent experiences finding touching proximity. Through her poems, our lives gather intimacy across a world’s vastness." --Pat Lowther Memorial Award Jury Citation

heft deftly encompasses both personal and political through [Doyali Islam’s] innovative use of a bifurcated poem. Is it two wings built around a white silence? The scales of the balance of justice? The border between self and other? We enter each poem as if into an unknown world, already populated, but ready to welcome us. Come and sit inside these wings.” --Philip Metres

"Islam’s distilled, intricate poems are packed with striking images and associative leaps; she writes of a cat 'bent after new thought'—a phrase that fits her poetic method, which is formally inventive . . . Having a burden is also a frequent motif; the grain of rice an ant carries is 'something to heft, heft for nourishment; / something to pain him and free him, at once'—in other words, a metaphor for life itself." --Toronto Star
"heft is permeated with tenderness—the poems deepen our humanity. How does language achieve something as physical as empathy? That language can achieve this is a kind of mystery, and beauty is inextricable from this mystery." —Anne Michaels, CV2
"heft shifts and moves; it leaps beautifully and leaves a 'space of love' wherever it lands.” -- Alycia Pirmohamed, The Adroit Journal

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