“inside me the cicadas lift”

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These notes are part of my “read 100 poetry books in 12-ish months” effort. Far from an official review, they represent first impressions and provide some context for what I brought to the reading of the text.

2 of 100: In the Pockets of Small Gods by Anis Mojgani (2018, Write Bloody Publishing)

Quick, personal thoughts:

  • As someone who’s been writing about divorce and death of a loved one for years, I really appreciated how Mojgani explores the grief from these events almost as a single grief. While we know in the collection when the narrator is speaking of the relationship’s failures and when he speaks of the death of a friend, the responses to these events are so intertwined that we understand feel one loss in the other. I understand personally how grief reflects and magnifies, and this collection makes no bones about how its particles cover everything.
  • What haunts me about this book is how closely it captures a sense of our own culpability in the losses that hurt us most… and how the truth/fiction of that culpability isn’t the point. It doesn’t matter what we did/didn’t do. What we must sort out is “What matters now?
  • I took a lot about writing longer poems and section poems from this collection. I attempted a longer poem with odd little sections/snippets in it years ago, and it has stuck with me as one of those puzzles I never solved. Perhaps this will inspire me to revisit it!

Lines I want to remember:

  • “Do not let them tell you what in you you should grow / and what in you you should kill” (as featured in the header image for this post)
  • “if the poet says the knife is a snake it is not like a snake it is a snake / if I say I am bag of Georgia twilight, it is because inside me the cicadas lift / I say every other day I convinced myself not to leave earth / we all sometimes swim in the dark part of the sea / sometimes it is not the sea but the swim back that pulls us under”
  • “Everything is a house that birds fly into and die”

What others have said:

  • Kaveh Akbar on the book’s back cover: “Mojgani maps a path from the death of a friend to the death of a marriage to the death of a country. Here is a book that knows true grief, knows too how to alchemize that grief into grace. The cold, the fire, the losing, yes. But always, then: ‘The spring. And the spring. The spring.'”

Have you read this collection? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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