The poems in this captivating collection weave beauty with violence, the personal with the historic as they recount the harrowing experiences of the two hundred thousand female victims of rape and torture at the hands of the Pakistani army during the 1971 Liberation War. As the child of Bangladeshi immigrants, the poet in turn explores her own losses, as well as the complexities of bearing witness to the atrocities these war heroines endured.
Throughout the volume, the narrator endeavors to bridge generational and cultural gaps even as the victims recount the horror of grief and personal loss. As we read, we discover the profound yet fragile seam that unites the fields, rivers, and prisons of the 1971 war with the poet’s modern-day hotel, or the tragic death of a loved one with the holocaust of a nation.
Moving from West Texas to Dubai, from Virginia to remote villages in Bangladesh and back again, the narrator calls on the legacies of Willa Cather, César Vallejo, Tomas Tranströmer, and Paul Celan to give voice to the voiceless. Fierce yet loving, devastating and magical at once, Seam is a testament to the lingering potency of memory and the bravery of a nation’s victims.
Winner, Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, 2014
Winner, Binghamton University Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, 2015
Winner, Drake University Emerging Writers Award, 2015
About the Author
Tarfia Faizullah was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1980, and raised in Midland, Texas, by parents who had immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh in 1978. She has an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Missouri Review, Ninth Letter, Blackbird, The Massachusetts Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of a Ploughshares Cohen Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Kenyon Writers' Workshop, and other honors.
"There is poetry here: our living language pulled into shape by hunger and intelligence."—Slate
"Tarfia Faizullah moves across landscapes and time to piece together a familial tragedy which presents the reader with a legacy of loss, violence, and pilgrimage."—American Literary Review
"Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam shows us that history should admit the emotions that come with more personal memory and, more radically, that memory can include even that which did not happen to ourselves or to the ones we love. Poetry can best address the horrors of history—and of the present day—through such a gathering of the impersonal and intimate."—Poets' Quarterly
“Why call any of it back? Tarfia Faizullah asks in her gorgeous and powerful debut collection, Seam. The answer lies in the notion of legacy, our relationships to the troubled histories we inherit, how a landscape of the past can become a veined geography inside you, another body inside your own demanding reckoning, a just articulation. In poems made more harrowing for what’s not said—the poet’s elegant and wise restraint—we confront the past and its aftermath in the lives of women interrupted by violence and brutality and loss. Memory and the journey back are always fraught with difficulties. It wasn’t enough light to see clearly by, she tells us, but I stillturned my face toward it. Faizullah is a poet of brave and unflinching vision and Seam is a beautiful and necessary book.”—Natasha Trethewey, United States Poet Laureate
“Seam reaffirms that imagination is the backbone of memory, the muscular fiber that enables us to re-grasp our humanity. Raised in West Texas, Faizullah examines the catastrophe that haunted her parents’ life in America and in turn haunted her: the sisters, aunts, and grandmothers raped in Bangladesh in the 1971 liberation war. With patience and immaculate lyric precision, and with sublime attention to language and the courage to interrogate her privilege and curiosity, Faizullah twines a seam where the wounds are re-membered, fingers quivering, spooling, and unspooling what we know of healing. This is a powerful debut, a reminder that some things should perhaps never be forgiven, a poignant record set against forgetfulness.”—Khaled Mattawa
“How thin the seam between this fierce book and all the poet’s countrypeople who haven't lived to read it. Faizullah has made a courageous and shaming book. I hope this book will be translated everywhere.”—Jean Valentine, author of Break the Glass
“This is a poetry of news—where brutality, desire, and beauty combine to form a rich testament of what poetry can do: to sing and disturb us awake, and leave us feeling more alive than ever before. Faizullah’s debut collection of poems is simply a triumph—it’s pure fire in your hands.”—Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Lucky Fish