Operations by Moez Surani

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Collected at book length, the decades of missions suggest the weight of our violent human history. Gathering the names over four years required deep research into terrible chapters of human history.
-Toronto Star


Poetry. From poet-provocateur Moez Surani comes OPERATIONS—a book-length poetic inventory of contemporary rhetoric of violence and aggression, as depicted through the evolution of the language used to name the many military operations conducted by UN Member Nations since the organization's inception in 1945.

With OPERATIONS, Surani draws from two poetic traditions—conceptual poetry, with its appropriation and filtration of language and its methodological focus on establishing rigorous constraints from which poems develop and emerge; and inventory poems that aggregate small parts into larger, inferred meanings. In so doing, he achieves two important aims: On the one hand, he shows that no word is free from connoting violence—where "tulip" and "grasshopper" are equal to "killer" and "bone breaker," no word is inherently innocent, beautiful, or good. On the other hand, he provokes people to consider whether their personal values match the values of the military operations that are conducted by their countries, often in the name of protecting and/or representing those same citizens.

By pulling military language away from euphemism—effectively, making it account for its doublespeaking ways—OPERATIONS documents the chasm that exists between these two sets of values, and gives voice to the many lives lost in conflicts around the world, in a volume that will speak equally to lovers of contemporary poetry, language, and linguistics, as to readers interested in politics, international relations, and public discourse.

"Words, first, then evidently turning into names, but names of what? Racking up four thousand military operations by United Nations member states since 1945, Moez Surani's list is far from simple. Who knew that the UN was writing a long poem? Or that this particular long poem would resound in the mind like Pound's Cantos, that 'poem including history'? A stunning compilation of linguistic fertility—and fertilization—courtesy of a political organization listing in the wind over half a century. But it takes a listener to detect that shiver in the atmosphere, and this astonishing book is deep listening through and through."—Jed Rasula

"Moez Surani has written a new kind of elegy."—Charles Bernstein

"Morning light. June dawns. Moonbeam. Bumblebee. Wren. Tulip. The code names of military operations conducted by the United Nations mark and disguise the costs of war and humanitarian interventions, like modest arrangements of flowers at unseen necropolitical funerals. Operations appropriates these code names without deploying the arsenal of juxtaposition, displacement, and framing conceits. It is a stark, stripped down, relentless list poem that organizes and recognizes the many faces and names of historic international cooperation. Surani's new book reimagines appropriative writing as an 'inadvertent collaboration' between nations. It documents the civilian and ecological devastation of collaboration and divests idealism from the notions of 'agreement' and 'co-production' between imagined and real communities. It is appropriative writing that queries how language is resignified and renovated for artful and affectively profitable cooptation by the state. And, true to the project's claims, the book eschews the pleasures of euphony, pursuing instead a terrifying cacophony between sound and sense. An unnerving, frightening book that calls for expansive and paratextual reading."—Divya Victor

About Moez Surani

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Published October 17, 2016 by BookThug. 184 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Toronto Star

Above average
Reviewed by Ryan Porter on Nov 06 2016

Collected at book length, the decades of missions suggest the weight of our violent human history. Gathering the names over four years required deep research into terrible chapters of human history.

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