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Book Review :: Deep Are These Distances Between Us by Susan Atefat-Peckham

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

Deep Are These Distances Between Us: Poems by Susan Atefat-Peckham book cover image

In an act of personal yearning, Editor Darius Atefat-Peckham offers readers his mother’s voice from beyond. In Deep Are These Distances Between Us, Iranian-American poet Susan Atefat-Peckham (1970–2004) tenders a “shining, shimmering / space” for poems prescient, prophetic, compassionate, forgiving, and ecstatic, “her hands cupped like a bowl / filled with sunlight and water and pleading.” Atefat-Peckham pleads for “words louder than the silence between them” to offer comfort to our wounded world. The poems trace “[s]hadows / we are bound by”—the Iranian state’s gender-based oppression, the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Islamophobia in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks—“to speak of / and hold, to carry” and resolve, “knees snapped to the earth,” in a devotional conversation with Persian mystics.

Despite the fact that Susan Atefat-Peckham died in a car accident when her son was three years old, her mind, advocacy, heart, and soul remain “bright, burning, / and alive” in her poetry. On a day when Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while imprisoned for her advocacy of Iranian women’s rights and sixteen-year-old Armita Geravand was dragged unconscious from a train after being beaten for not wearing a hijab, Susan Atefat-Peckham’s poems remind us that “there is always an ear listening / in the silence.” The distances between Susan Atefat-Peckham and us may be great, yet hers is unmistakably a poetry for our perilous times. Susan Atefat-Peckham is “still / in the universe.” She lives on via her poetry, which provides readers with a “place of repeated / comfort where even scars will brighten.”

Deep Are These Distances Between Us by Susan Atefat-Peckham. CavanKerry Press, May 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems appear. More at https://jamimacarty.com/

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