Page Count: 110
Publication Date: Monday, May 10, 2021
Cover Artwork: Cover Photograph: Jessie Lendennie. Cover Design: Patrick Chapman
About this Book
In Persecution, Sofiul Azam’s remarkable fourth collection, the poet employs intellectual gravity and emotional immediacy to address persecution as a major theme. Blurring the lines between the private and the public, Azam explores the tyranny of the unfeeling majority and the dictating minority, blending a multiplicity of aspects that may appear separate but are in fact interlinked. Persecution illuminates a powerful, cohesive philosophy, revealing that how we respond to these dynamics in a world such as ours defines what we are and who we will turn out to be.
PRAISE FOR SOFIUL AZAM'S WORK:
SAFE UNDER WATER (2014)
Impressive things here, in formal matters and also in imagination and narrative.
I am impressed by its intelligence, complexity yet ease of register … its wit, sometimes bitter, and its passion for poetry. I recognize the world through it, it is a world of imagination and concerns we share.
IN LOVE WITH A GORGON (2010)
…interesting and intriguing.
Azam’s new poems remind us that every generation needs to recreate the songlines that map our progress from then to now. These are the lyrics that describe who we were and what we are becoming. They are musical, sensual and intelligent; and they take us forward, beyond grief for what was to hope for what might be.
I find in his poems intensities that one rarely comes across. The poems trouble me because of their oblique slant though they are in themselves masterly compositions. They contain much pain unraveled with tenderness and in a muted language.
His poems are the creations of a man, struggling with the clashing of long tradition and an often harsh and mechanical modernity. In the lines born of his struggle, we hear the pleading voice of a man deeply in love with life, in touch with its pleasures and its conflicts.
SOFIUL AZAM has three published poetry collections: Impasse (2003), In Love with a Gorgon (2010), Safe under Water (2014), and has edited Short Stories of Selim Morshed (2009). His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Pirene’s Fountain, North Dakota Quarterly, The Ibis Head Review, The Ghazal Page, Cholla Needles, Poetry Salzburg Review, Orbis, The Cannon’s Mouth, Postcolonial Text, and elsewhere. Some poems are anthologized in Two Thirds North, fourW: New Writing 28, Journeys, Caught in the Net, among others. He is working on two poetry collections This Time, Every Time and Days in the Forested Hills. He currently teaches English at World University of Bangladesh, having taught it before at other universities.
Photo: Ohidujjaman Beeplaub
Read a sample from this book
Every sound I make is a crow's cawing.
Every word I use attacks all my loved ones like a porcupine.
Every step I take is either a misreading or a backtracking.
But every remorse I just want to heave away
sticks to me like my skin, with no bother about any deadline.
The air I breathe in, as if wishing for an increase on my payday,
is the fume of toxic chemicals.
Epitomes of what I look for are long captured in cells.
Every truth is an insult to every sugary lie;
it risks the gang rape by a crowd of lies on the running bus
as if it had invoked acerbic curses from the sky.
The punishment for my temper tantrum
is not uncalled for, nor by any means superfluous.
It justifies the prudent pull at my scrotum.
What should be my modus operandi on the raceway
when all must try techniques are scenes in a dull screenplay?
Every pleasure I manage turns into bitterness.
I get only what I've never wanted,
things scarier than corpses covered in diplomatic finesse.
Drought turns up as I join the masses praying for rain.
Coldness slinks in when I need someone undaunted
to give me the warmth of her arms, to dull my pain.
I'm not Oedipus misfortune loved so much
but surely the one far from a small rabbit hutch.
Copyright © Sofiul Azam 2021
Squeezing syllables for a drop of meaning is just a game today.
Should you think I'm more of a crazy slug limping for fame today?
If one sums up regrets over an amorous walking out in the rains,
people like snails will surely feel better off being lame today.
I'm tired of cooperating with dolts but I won't do it anymore;
for angels of non-cooperation – to say the truth – came today.
Many times I went on errands while dodgers sat back in pleasure
but I've decided to be the wildest horse none can tame today.
There's no time for freaking out. A male seahorse carrying
the female's eggs in his pouch and I are the same today.
Like Keats, I wrote sad poems like "La Belle Dame Sans Merci;"
I don't give a damn about who will be my merciful dame today.
Look at the last year's calendar where regrets towered over you
and you got flattened out in grief. Set them aflame today.
If you got fortune turned on time like a turbine in flood-tide
but naively pulled if off, there'll be only yourself to blame today.
Hit hard life Gorgon-like temptress at every treacherous bend
and put – if you can – your remaining firmness in frame today.
Would you redline desires on this page white as an Arctic fox
and let go of what others may find in you to defame today?
I've too often blackened out my own dreams with extra ink;
it's time the day dawned with bright confetti of my claim today.
I've snatched a small victory over intimidation, it's party time:
like a caterpillar I will no longer lie curled in shame today.
Sofiul, say Thanks for your sociable lies or sugarized concerns
but don't be stupid to desire headlines with your name today.
Copyright © Sofiul Azam 2021
Prayers to the God of Jihadists
Are you sure you of the Jihadists
aren't the same old One for us commoners?
We never denied our God's gifts.
But we simply refuse yours –
they are bombs wrapped in florid cellophanes.
Mistakenly, my son took one
and got strewn as gravel on streets instead.
I buried one bag of his burst remains
with tears from our ordinary eyes,
with prayers to the One who gave us life.
Oh, one of your gifts killed my only son –
my one seed wasted in the drought of this desert.
Are you sure you are the same as our One?
Keep us the destitute in your prayers.
Oops, I'm sorry you don't have to pray, do you?
Or do you need to pray to the Jihadists
so that they can strike obedience
in every heart like a fiery spark
so that you can prosper in your servants' fear –
a fungus sucking life from the rot?
They say you are the All Powerful
but you need them to protect yourself
from a single infidel's slur on your character.
I'll pray to our God so that you can feel safe.
Because your feeling unsafe doesn't ensure safety to us.
Build your abode with quality bricks and iron.
Are you short of your messengers of death?
Are these Jihadists your new recruits,
your new conscripts in time of this prolonging war?
They plant seeds into our daughters by force;
they waste our daughters like weeds
even before our daughters flower.
At times, our daughters are sold in the flower market.
We all feel good our daughters are slowly learning
how to milk each Jihadist's swollen teat.
I pray you recruit some messengers of life.
On these ruins amid a flesh-rotting stench,
we all love life to flower –
the only perfume to nullify all stench.
Our God prefers tolerance to fruits of war.
Cowardice is a vice when bravery means
slitting throats by a sharp knife
on thirsty sands. Maybe you love to see
the body with the head wriggling on blood,
the worthy charm like the mystery of Jesus –
a son conceived without a father's seed,
like the mystery of Moses passing
though a sea thrust open like a watery door
as if a Jihadist's water-divining tongue
parting my daughter's dry cunt lips
for the grand arrival of His Holy Dickhead.
I pray, "Help me understand the mystery of all mysteries."
Did you, too, create time like our God did
in six days, only to rest on the seventh?
Time, our sole sympathizer beside God,
– often out of its inspired whimsy – scribbles
on water and even engraves on granites
all of its griefs given as gifts.
The mountains we see over there
are manifestations of its griefs thrust up
instead of molten lava
and the oceans we bathe in are its tears
gathered in a mass. Yet, O God of the Jihadists,
we all pray let us dream of a sky fall
of bliss instead of burst splinters.
We are boulders iced on a rugged mountain
unaffected for ages unless moved
by blessings like winds or quakes.
I can't stand the stonification of my griefs.
Get me the bliss of breaking into pieces,
dividing the burden. Are you sure
you aren't the old one for us commoners?
I've already forgotten the smell of my children's blood.
Even then our friends with a different God in their hearts
always suspect us. Spare me the pain.
This is my petition. I'm planning to make
another to the God of the Crusaders as well.
I don't know how many Gods I need to pray to.
And the Crusaders vowed revenge on your Jihadists.
Before they get "wasted in the outhouse,"
we don't want to be mistaken for them.
Tell your Jihadists not to lecture us on wreckage,
not to slit the throats of those who write;
writing gets their fingers fit for prayers if you like.
Our God of Peaceful Fragility must have
contrived a simpler scheme of things for us;
don't rebuke our God who cries out like us in despair,
and even gladly accepts defeat to a little rat,
only to make it feel victorious amount the ratters.
Are you sure you aren't the same old God?
Am I praying to our dear old God?
Copyright © Sofiul Azam 2021