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It’s been five years since Solmaz Sharif’s first appearance on Between the Covers, for her National Book Award–finalist debut collection Look. Since then, many listeners have pointed to this conversation as one of the most memorable episodes to date. Solmaz returns today to discuss her much-anticipated follow-up, Customs. We talk about belonging, exile and language, about what it means to write against goodness, to write uncivilly, to write against language even. We look at the ways her poetry has changed from one book to the next, and the vulnerability and fear of writing from a single voice, in the first person, rather than through the poly-vocal conceptual frame of Look. We also take some of Solmaz’s animating questions into the world of the classroom, into poetry pedagogy, as well as out into the world, as a lens into the lives of political poets, and into what poems can (and can’t) do.
Check out today’s Bookshop, where the works of writers we engaged with today, from June Jordan to Dionne Brand to Forough Farrokhzad, can be found. Also if you enjoyed today’s program consider becoming a listener-supporter of the show. There are many potential benefits and rewards of doing so, including becoming an early reader for Tin House, receiving twelve books over the course of a year months before they are available to the general public, rare collectibles from past guests (from Ursula K. Le Guin to Nikky Finney), and the bonus audio archive with contributions from Kaveh Akbar, Rabih Alameddine, Phil Metres, Layli Long Soldier, Alice Oswald, Jorie Graham, and more. These and many other things can be found at the show’s Patreon page.