Solmaz Sharif

15 Solmaz Sharif

BEST SINGLE POEM SHORTLIST

Solmaz Sharif (b. 1983, Istanbul) studied at the University of California, Berkeley and New York University. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, and is a former managing director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

Sharif, whose parents were both Iranian, writes that she admires most those poets ‘who refuse to bar the political from their work while refusing to capitulate to it.’ This balancing-act is recognisable in ‘Force Visibility’, her shortlisted poem. As she describes it, the poem ‘deals with the language of state-sponsored violence. Or the violence of state-sponsored language’, noting that ‘the words that appear in small caps are terms taken from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.’ What’s striking about the poem, though, in its almost queasy intrusion of the public and the private worlds into one another, is the disorienting effect of its overlaid perspectives, the impression of several lives being lived at once. Is this, the poem invites us to ask, one effect of living with a multiple heritage in modern America?