Look by Solmaz Sharif
Poems

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An artful lexicographer, Sharif shows us that the diameter of a word is often as devastating as the diameter of a bomb. When she writes, “Let me look at you,” the mine detonates and a single line rings through the entire collection into the larger world of poetry and life: “It matters what you call a thing.”
-NY Times

Synopsis

*Finalist for the 2017 PEN Open Book Award*
*Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award*

Solmaz Sharif's astonishing first book, Look, asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable loss of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, and sequences, Sharif assembles her family's and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare. Those repercussions echo into the present day, in the grief for those killed in America's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the discrimination endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter.

At the same time, these poems point to the ways violence is conducted against our language. Throughout this collection are words and phrases lifted from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; in their seamless inclusion, Sharif exposes the devastating euphemisms deployed to sterilize the language, control its effects, and sway our collective resolve. But Sharif refuses to accept this terminology as given, and instead turns it back on its perpetrators. "Let it matter what we call a thing," she writes. "Let me look at you."

Daily I sit
with the language
they've made

of our language

to NEUTRALIZE
the CAPABILITY of LOW DOLLAR VALUE ITEMs
like you.

You are what is referred to as
a "CASUALTY."

--from "Personal Effects"

 

About Solmaz Sharif

See more books from this Author
Solmaz Sharif has published poetry in The New Republic and Poetry, and has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.
 
Published July 5, 2016 by Graywolf Press. 112 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Look
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Natalie Diaz on Aug 21 2016

The poet and activist June Jordan once wrote that “poetry means taking control of the language of your life.” Solmaz Sharif does just that in her excellent debut collection, “Look,” pushing readers to acknowledge a lexicon of war she has drawn from the Defense Department’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Mina Tavakoli on Oct 09 2016

It is the central miracle of Look that Sharif shows us the real intensity of her conceit without veering into triteness. She is, in turns, icy and searing, but consistently fierce and beautiful.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Natalie Diaz on Aug 19 2016

An artful lexicographer, Sharif shows us that the diameter of a word is often as devastating as the diameter of a bomb. When she writes, “Let me look at you,” the mine detonates and a single line rings through the entire collection into the larger world of poetry and life: “It matters what you call a thing.”

Read Full Review of Look: Poems | See more reviews from NY Times

LA Times

Good
Reviewed by John Freeman on Jul 08 2016

Lyricism is so often over-used in poetry, but here Sharif deploys it perfectly; she heightens language to remember what was.

Read Full Review of Look: Poems | See more reviews from LA Times

Reader Rating for Look
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