This book length poem comprises three major interwoven threads: Ahli, an auto/biographical thread about my Lebanese heritage; Astura, a grim tale linking climate change and the oppression of women, and Ana, a reflection on identity, language, and writing. To tell a story of my mother, her sisters, and their mother; a story of traditions, gesture, ritual, transformation, and self, is to persist against the erasure of the nuanced and tenacious feminine histories that co-exist with our troubled present and its bland stereotypes.
Like a seed, a family story houses its ancestors, and the diversity—genetic and experiential—that equips us to thrive in a multitude of possible futures. Written in quatrains, called ruba’iyat in Arabic, from the word for “four”, each stanza of this poem is self-contained, yet converses with adjacent stanzas to build a narrative. The repetition of phrases across stanzas, and the studding of the text with Arabic words, combine to create a layered, incantatory quality evoking the complexity of Arabic oral poetry.
About the Author
Basma Kavanagh is a poet and visual artist who lives and works in Nova Scotia. To make her work, she spends time outdoors, attending to the diverse and complex organisms and forces animating our living world. Her artwork has been exhibited in Canada and the US. She has been an artist in residence at the Banff Centre, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and the Penland School of Craft. She produces artist’s books under the imprint Rabbit Square Books, and is the author of two poetry collections: Distillō (2012), and Niche (2015), which won the 2016 Lansdowne Poetry Prize.
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