ClockWork is a sustained argument with the role of the poet/critic, and the search for an alternative narrative. It has been situated with the eye of an exile; that is, Zaid Shlah perceives his native country (Canada) at a distance, and that distance provides an oblique and nuanced view of its poetic/political and public discourse. As an Iraqi-Canadian living in the U.S. (bringing with it all of the conflicted feelings of a protracted and senseless war), the manuscript’s primary exploration is concerned with the effects of that compounded discourse on language and poetry, and what the author or the individual might do to get back to seeing himself and the world anew.
“I / would arm you with eyes for an / alternative narrative,” writes Zaid Shlah, in a collection that fiercely questions historically fixed ideas about language and then uses that questioning to create something new: a fast-paced, atonal, baroque, spare voice intent on defeating expectations. In a mix of prose and poetry, theory and autobiography, via sonnet cycles, experimental stanzaic arrangements and spiky free-verse, ClockWork is intellectually raw and linguistically free. I’ve read nothing like it.” – Carmine Starnino
“An urgent meditation on tensions between the lyric and the avant-garde, and on the contemporary poet’s exile from tradition. ClockWork calls for a poetry beyond aesthetics and innovation, and for the return of the poet-critic.” – Carolyn Cooke
This is a work of extraordinary vision and desire. Only a real poet would engage the labyrinthine domains of language, their factories and control systems, to achieve a genuine critical consciousness that insists on resistance as well as kindness. Zaid Shlah is such a poet, and his hybrid, achingly searching ClockWork captures this on the dot. This is no punch-card book. His imagination guides him to the revolutionary spirit of Nock, Gould and Said among others. “I saw more in the eyes of the/ poet in exile than in all the weight/ of the sagacious man’s empire,” he tells us. Shlah’s necessity arms us with an alternative narrative. – Fady Joudah
About the Author
Born in Canada, and of Iraqi heritage, ZAID SHLAH currently resides in Northern California with his family. His poetry has appeared in literary magazines, journals and anthologies in both Canada and the US. In May of 2005, he was awarded the American Academy of Poets Award. His first book of poetry, Taqsim, has been published in the US and in Canada (Frontenac House, 2006). He teaches composition and English literature where he is Assistant Professor of English at Modesto Junior College.
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