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Book Review :: Disbound by Hajar Hussaini

Disbound poetry by Hajar Hussaini published by University of Iowa Press book cover image

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

Imagine a book’s binding has dissolved. Now consider what it means when a country loses its binding: “each house / to grieve a long list / of mourners / who had no procession.” Now, dear reader, you are in the “tenacious presence” of Disbound, Afghan poet and translator Hajar Hussaini’s debut. Disbound’s inquiry: What binds self, family, and nation after war? The nation: Afghanistan, where “the state of affairs chauffeurs the thousands / out of place.”

The poems of Disbound offer “an inventory / / of memories” and the demographics of immigration: “four in ten would leave given the opportunity.” The lives of citizens are pitted against papers and files: “shake an immigrant / and scraps of paper fall out of reality”; “father may die before the files are processed.”

Gestures of dismantling contribute to Disbound’s aesthetics. According to the end notes, several of the collection’s poems “are made of found language borrowed from” various Afghan media sources. This repurposing seems to allow the poet to subvert ideological messages while highlighting a “new gen continuum” and privileging artistic expression: “a slaughterhouse / was renovated / an art production built /… / … / against forgetting.”

Similarly, expression of female sexuality and desire “in gendered halls” is brought forward: “in this language the body / is both / alive and not.” The “manifestation of… immeasurable needs” is perhaps a disbounding from Afghan national norms, and in that way, a “gain,” if there is such a thing, from disbounding. In a book, written out of profound disconnection, Hussaini’s willingness to reconnect with language and the body “is a post-traumatic act,” is a radical act to rebound and rebind after disbound.

Disbound by Hajar Hussaini. University of Iowa Press, November 2022.

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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