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AT SKYLIGHT: FARNAZ FATEMI in conversation with LEONORA SIMONOVIS

Sister Tongue (Kent State University Press)

Winner of the 2021 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize

The poems in Sister Tongue explore negative spaces—the distance between twin sisters, between lovers, between Farsi and English, between the poet’s upbringing in California and her family in Iran. This space between vibrates with loss and longing, arcing with tension. Farnaz Fatemi’s poetry delves into the intricacies of the relational space between people, the depth of ancestral roots, and the visceral memories that shimmer beyond the reach of words.

Language is one of the origins of the poet’s displacement and the evidence of her non-belonging—in both Farsi- and English-speaking communities. The long lyric essay that makes up the spine of this book plumbs years of wordlessness and a journey of reconciliation, as Fatemi asks how her tongue might be a passport to the otherwise inaccessible territories within a self.

The poems in Sister Tongue metabolize longing while holding space for the poet’s multiple inheritances, offering a vision of a porosity of self. Through the work of this reckoning, Fatemi reveals how connections between people and places might be forged.

Farnaz Fatemi is a founding member of the Hive Poetry Collective and was a writing instructor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her poems and prose appear in Catamaran Literary Reader, Crab Orchard Review, Grist Journal,Tupelo Quarterly, and several anthologies, including Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran and Its Diaspora.

Praise for Sister Tongue -

“In Sister Tongue, Fatemi shines gorgeous light on the liminal space between languages, bearing witness to the joy and longing that accompany every act of translation.” —Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Life on Mars

“Delicious, provocative, and incredibly wise, Farnaz Fatemi transcends years and oceans in these pages. Like gripping a cup and string to the ear, Sister Tongue is a hopeful missive, proof of words and their witnesses, an atlas of the wonder of becoming.” —T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls

“I praise the present tense of these poems for its tensile strength, its ability to hold the struggle that is happening in the past, present, and future. The way it speaks of the perpetual, of what it is to be tongue-tied in the presence of one’s other self. ‘Language is geological,’ this speaker tells us, ‘a process of accumulation, and accretion accompanied by landslides.’ In setting out to speak the language of her blood, she finds herself at once estranged and embraced. Thrilled and defeated. What to do with such a natural disaster? These poems persist in their attempts to bridge worlds, offering hope of a complex and hard-won reconciliation, one richly crafted line at a time. In the words of Fatemi, ‘I want the foreigner in me / to meet the foreigner in me.’” —Danusha Laméris, author of Bonfire Opera

“Sister Tongue, Farnaz Fatemi’s debut poetry collection, transports us to a place where language must stretch to fit the largeness of human love and longing, and in doing so, fills the absences we did not even know we harbored. Sister Tongue begins to say what many of us already know—that borders and countries are too limiting to define us. Her poems offer us both a reckoning and a salve.” —Persis M. Karim, chair of the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at San Francisco State University

“Poet Farnaz Fatemi is the soulful Iranian American truth-teller and wonder-wanderer we’ve needed to hear. In Farsi, in English, in Tehran, or California, these poems cherish the miracle of connectedness by weaving family threads through time and space—through sisters, mothers, grandmothers, through a changed and changing world. Sister Tongue is a luscious love letter to language(s), spoken in a trusting, intimate voice. The poet recognizes the twinned solace of silence and song, of sister and self. Loss takes its seat, as it does, at the table, and Fatemi, with tea, family history, powerful memory, and a new/old tongue, inscribes it alongside the depths of beauty and joy in this radiant book of passionate understanding.” —Brenda Shaughnessy, author of The Octopus Museum

“Neither exile nor immigrant, Farnaz Fatemi writes with a double intelligence that transcends any presuppositions we might bring to a poetry of the other. She claims her strategic advantage with confidence and laser-like insight, the gift of deep listening and the power of naming, as she slips back and forth freely across borders like a master spy reporting from an uncharted world suspended between two cultures. I am optimistic that Sister Tongue speaks the language of our future.” —Zara Houshmand, writer

Study of the Raft (Center for Literary Publishing)

Winner of the 2021 Colorado Prize for Poetry

In Study of the Raft, Leonora Simonovis’s poems weave the outer world of a failed political revolution in her native country, Venezuela, with an inner journey into the memories of migration and exile, of a home long gone, and of family relations, especially among womxn. The collection explores the consequences of colonization, starting with “Maps,” a poem that speaks of loss and uprootedness, recalling a time when indigenous lands were stolen and occupied, where stories were lost as new languages and beliefs were imposed on people. The politics of the present are also the politics of the past, not just in the Venezuelan context, but in many other Latin American and Caribbean countries. It is the reality of all indigenous people. Simonovis’s poems question the capacity of language to represent the complexity of lived experience, especially when it involves living from more than one language and culture. These poems wrestle with questions of life and death, of what remains after what and whom we know are no longer with us, and how we, as humans, constantly change and adjust in the face of uncertainty.

Leonora Simonovis is the author of Study of the Raft, winner of the 2021 Colorado Prize for Poetry. Her creative work has appeared in Gargoyle, Kweli Journal, Diode Poetry Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Rumpus, among others. Her poems have also been featured in Verse Daily, Sims Library of Poetry, and CIACLA (Contemporary Irish Center, Los Angeles). She has been the recipient of fellowships from Women Who Submit (WWS), VONA, and  the Poetry Foundation and has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net. A Venezuelan American poet, Leonora grew up in Caracas, Venezuela and currently lives in San Diego, CA, where she teaches Latin American literature and creative writing in Spanish at the University of San Diego. 

Praise for Study of the Raft -

“I can’t remember a debut collection so startling and fresh, so uncompromising and passionate. Leonora Simonovis’s powerful, confident voice runs through each and every one of these poems like a lifeline in defiance of injustice and oppression. She writes about Venezuela, exile, and family with such rich detail and nuance that we are swept away into her struggle to maintain a precarious balance in all of her worlds. This book is a sharp reminder that the personal is also—and always—political. She is always tuned in to the heart, a heart we can believe in and trust.” —Jim Daniels

“In Leonora Simonovis's beautiful book, Study of the Raft, family history is mixed with feminist history, and what it means to be a citizen. The death of Abuela's child intersects with what it means to be a woman, dodging "the bullets of others' desire," and the speaker's sense of alienation in her own country. All of these tensions accumulate into an important geometry of American life. Simonovis's poems are plainspoken and powerful, gentle and fierce. An impressive debut, these poems are a gift to contemporary American poetry.” —Victoria Chang

 

Event date: 
Thursday, September 1, 2022 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Sister Tongue (Wick First Book) By Farnaz Fatemi, Tracy K. Smith (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Farnaz Fatemi, Tracy K. Smith (Foreword by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9781606354445
Availability: Backordered
Published: Kent State University Press - August 31st, 2022

Study of the Raft (Colorado Prize for Poetry) By Leonora Simonovis Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781885635792
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Center for Literary Publishing - December 7th, 2021