Once again, I have abandoned this space for a while. I’m not sure why I keep doing that but the interruptions are many and, for the most part enjoyable, so I’m not really complaining. I spend time playing with grandchildren, making music, playing World of Warcraft, and running around with the amazing Spice of My Life, Isabel, so I’m not really complaining. That said, I could be keeping up with this blog and I have a lot to talk about so here we go again.
A couple of years ago an old friend emailed me to say that a young woman who was working for him in the store he managed was writing poetry and, he thought, really good poetry but she didn’t have contact with other poets. He suggested that if I liked her work as much as he did that maybe I would give her some encouragement and contact with the local writing community.
Her name is Fatima Hirsi. I was impressed and we talked. She was eager, open, and talented. I really liked her writing. That first year, at my suggestion, she went to the Austin International Poetry Festival. She was a big hit just in the open mike readings (she was among the “last poets standing” at 6am after the Midnight to Dawn Instant Anthology Open Mic reading.) She has continued to write, improve, and perform. This year, 2014, she was asked back to AIPF as one of the poets who are specially invited so that their work can be featured. That’s an honor not many of the poets who have attended for years have had and it’s completely a result of the quality of her writing and its intense engagement with her deepest feelings.
This year Fatima gave me a copy of a new chapbook, self published as is most poetry. My regard for her work continues to grow. It is a very interesting and self aware group of poems. The title is Her. Let’s look at some of the poems.
I started writing this because I wanted to honor my friend and her work. I started after reading several of the poems, out of sequence, at various times. One thing a honest reviewer must do is sit down, more than once, and read the entire book straight through. I have done that and am now uneasy about writing about it.
I mentioned before that Fatima’s work reached into her deepest feelings and in each individual poem that is true. What rocked me back on my heels was the power of the collection when read all at once. The theme here is the author’s overwhelming desire for a child. Not just any child, either, but the one that appears at the corner of the writer’s eye, “…never straight on but always loud in her presence.” The one with the, “White dress. Wild lion mane of hair.” that is always there and may be a spirit of the dead or, “waitin to be born.”
Interesting to me is the fact that there are two poems here in forms that I’m not fond of. There is an “alphabet” poem, Demeter’s Grip, one that totally escapes the “child’s alphabet book” model to stay entirely within the theme of the book. The book ends with, The Place-Holder Child, which is a prose poem or poetic prose, whatever you want to call it. Whatever you call it, it is a powerful conclusion for this collection.
There is power here and honesty, so much of the writer’s—well, as I said before, “deepest feelings.” I can’t recommend this little book enough but the reader coming to it must be prepared to share that much of the writer. You must be prepared to experience the joy of love, the fear of never finding, the pain of loss, the very real emotions that come through these poems. I’m not going to give you one of the hardest ones by any means, you’ll have to get the book for those but here’s the one that opens the discussion.