The Interview with Sophia Naz

by Anthony Watkins

Six Featured Poems​

Sophia Naz is a bilingual poet, essayist, author, editor and translator. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, in 2016 for creative non-fiction and in 2018 for poetry. Her work has been featured in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Naz is a regular contributor to The Dawn, poetry editor and columnist at The Sunflower Collective, as well as the founder of rekhti.org, a site dedicated to contemporary Urdu poetry by women. Her poetry collections are Peripheries (2015), Pointillism (2017), and Date Palms (2017). Her website is SophiaNaz.com.

AW: The poetry in your 2015 book Peripheries has a spare mythical quality, and yet you make sharp points, like quick pricks of the acupuncture needle, hardly felt, and yet highly effective. By 2017, in your book Pointillism, the needles have grown sharper and jab deeper, leaving more of a mark, at least on my ears and in my mind.

 

If this is a progression, where do you see it going?

 

SN: Peripheries begins the mapping of “Mnemosyne’s rubbled mineral” in “Shipwreck,” its opening poem:

 

          only

          in the exhale, words

          have a country a meaning

          they must cross &

          uncross the tangled

          lines, the barbs of borders

 

          that say this is Hindi, a smear

          upon the other’s forehead

          & this is Urdu, a bird

          we are trying to cage

 

          in long, slender bars

          of Nastaliq, so banished

          from flight, she parrots

          a false fortune

          history clipped

          at the wings to bury

          a mongrel past

 

By the time Pointillism is published in June 2017, my focus has sharpened. The points are wounds of calamitous entry:

 

          Shot is a collective term

          for small balls

          the “diabolo”

          is the most common

 

          its rapid fire explodes

          hundreds of pellets

          from a single point and shoot

          Soft-shell of his body

          sieved into unreadable Braille

 

So now we come to the progression. In October of 2017, the same year that Pointillism was published, I lost my home to wildfires and even though that continues to be a devastating loss, especially for someone like me who is so obsessed with history, it was also a pretty amazing gift as a poet and it fueled the genesis of Open Zero, my latest poetry manuscript which Hoshang Merchant, a prominent Indian poet, has kindly dubbed “a poetry phoenix.”

 

Open Zero is an exploration of loss in all its forms. The personal loss of my home acts as a springboard to dive into the nature of loss itself, so there’s a wide range of poems here, some soar light as a “Nothing Bird” and some circumambulate the nitty gritty cardboard walls and dripping faucet of the trailer I’ve lived in for nearly three years since the fire. Then there are the dimensions of loss which have to do with politics, gender and ecology. All of these are inseparable in my view.

 

Of course we are living in a maelstrom of loss right now on a scale that we couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago. As Paul Celan said, “There are no words but language endures.”

Editor’s Choice — Formal Poetry

Viparinama

 

A droop-eyed, round-jowled, ringleted Buddha’s head

presides upon a riser, on display

here in the window, unaware a red-

sweatered fashion dummy by a hay

bale in the clothes shop straight across Oak Street

stares blankly at him through the plate

glass glare. Buddha has no arms, trunk, feet,

the dummy has no soul. Both seem sedate.

It’s fall, and shopping season once again.

This little New Age bookstore has its stream

of votaries, who browse and nod, and then

cross to chase that other window-dream.

The weeks will come on colder, soon, and wetter.

Souls will each require a brilliant sweater.

 

 

Terence Culleton’s two published collections are A Communion of Saints and Eternal Life. Poems from his forthcoming collection of sonnets, A Tree and Gone (FutureCycle Press), have recently appeared in Antiphon, The Eclectic Muse, Innisfree, The Road Not Taken, and elsewhere.

Publisher’s Choice — Free Verse

 

Laundry Day

 

I felt the need to destroy

but decided instead to do your laundry.

The sweat on your shirt was stale

but I could still make out the smell

of gasoline on your Dickies,

especially the right hip

where you cleaned off your tools.

I filled your pockets with my hands

letting my fingers blossom

within them as I searched

for lighters, quarters

and lists you make of words you’d

like to commit to memory.

 

I found a philosophical debate going on

from one pocket to another.

Your grease streaked Dickies are

quite Utilitarian.

All your Levi’s whisper of anarchy

until I had enough

notes to make a roar.

You have a sharp pair of plaid chinos

that were quoting Slavoj Zizek

and that wholesome French film

with incest

we watched three times in a week.

I sung in Italian as I scrubbed

out the grass on the cuffs.

When they were sun-dry and stiff

I laid out the Dickies on our bed

over a pair of your briefs

and measured your abandoned work shirt

against the waistband.

You weren’t there

but then you were.

 

Angelica Allain was the Poetry Editor of Soundings East and a Salem Poetry Seminar Fellow in 2019. She has upcoming publications in Weber Contemporary West and LEVEE. She is an avid traveler.

Publisher’s Choice  African Poetry

 

Star-crossed Lover

 

He loved me when no one would

He brought me wild fruit in a wooden plate

He squeezed the teats of the mother cow

whilst I opened my mouth under its bulging udder

Feeling the warm milk fill my mouth

He aimed at a lone bird with his sling shot

and offered me its fire roasted meat on our date.

He glided with me on the slippery rocks of Tshangane River

After an adventurous swim with the crocodiles

He kept his eyes on the herd of cattle grazing on the plain

While his hand caressed my cheek

We rolled in the dewy grass

He smelt of cow dung and unprocessed milk

Of the wild umkhemeswane fruit

And the bold sweat of toil in the green fields

He respected my innocence

Spoke of sending a delegation to my family

Of giving my father a herd of cattle

Of siring strong little boys and girls

Of a thousand moons passed in the most elegant pose

Of counting stars and singing along with the rain bird

 

 

Banqobile Virginia Dakamela is a writer who hails from Zimbabwe. A story she wrote was published in an anthology which was studied at high schools and is a set book in a local university. She writes extensively.

Editor’s Choice Experimental Poetry

cadet misplaced her brain again, sir

 

i.

you think uniforms and ranks and m-16s have these magical qualities that transform you and the world into somebody something different, a place where you’ve got it all together and always salute on point. but in reality they’re just another thing to keep track of one more item to remember like Phone Keys Wallet Water bottle Note book, all the things you leave at school or on the kitchen counter when you leave for work in the morning.

 

ii.

flight cap on flight cap off Where’s my flight cap? on my head) fell out of my belt in the hallway again cause I was trying to remember to say Good afternoon gentlemencorrection please Ladies and gentlemen, a cadet rank is this little metal pin and if it falls under a locker Good luck, and an m-16 looks like every other m-16 especially in the dark but if you get the wrong serial number you know—

 

iii.

you’ve messed up again and it’s just like middle school nothing’s changed. but here’s your advantage: you know you’re not owed anything cause it’s all the small things that don’t come easy, class schedules shoeshine legible memos. you’re not afraid of dying or missiles or court martials you can do 20 (30 on good days) you even flew the bomber sim okay, you just pray if you ever get to pilot you won’t leave your airplane on the kitchen counter when you leave for work in the morning.

 

 

N. C. Krueger is an author/artist from the Twin Cities whose work has been published in Embers Igniting, Blue Marble Review, Alexandria Quarterly, and The Tower. She derives joy from freezing temperatures, black metal, dinosaurs, and earthworms.

. . . and now . . . 

 . . . from the mind of . . .

     The Mad Poet

Publisher’s Choice — International Poetry

***

     Solitude.
Crescent moon —
     above the trees
     at the bottom
     of the pond.

     So far.

     So close.

     Fishes singing.
 

***

 

The color of fire

     in the dark

     of night.

Embers in the storm

     — fireflies.

 

Cyril Ioutsen is from Moscow, Russian Federation, where he works as a researcher at the State Museum of Literature and edits/publishes a literary almanac. He has been writing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and composing music, for nearly twenty years.

Editor’s Choice Poetry Unplugged

Smoking Zone

 

I step outside and still,

not a breath.

Stark winter trees

are charcoaled

upon pink clouds

lit up loud by the unrelenting city.

 

The pub door opens,

releasing barroom babble and a stranger

looking all too familiar,

fumbling pockets

and in sharing a match

we are united by the light.

 

The first drag,

hard and fast, anticipates

the second coming

deep and strong, confirming

that first acrid taste.

The rest is a matter of habit.

 

Others spark and tipping ash,

we are pressed into a pack,

happy to be ourselves in each other

as companions of addiction,

banished by common affliction

unto this sanctuary.

 

From another quarter,

the moon struggles through the clouds

of swirling blue smoke

to illuminate

my smoking, my comfort, my killing,

 

my zone.

 

 

Ned Nutkins is an out of work road sweeper — an English exile living in South Wales, the stomping ground of Dylan Thomas.

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