THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “SWIMMING IN HONG KONG,” BY STEPHANIE HAN AND “AUTUMN COLORS,” BY DAWN LAJEUNESSE, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.
THE BOOK: Malak.
PUBLISHED IN: 2017
THE AUTHOR: Jenny Sadre-Orafai.
THE EDITOR: Jennifer K. Sweeney and Michelle Tudor.
THE PUBLISHER: Platypus Press.
SUMMARY: The book investigates what we inherit from our families and also what we pass down—specifically between women. It’s an exploration of who we are and how we come to accept this. The poems are infused with a lot of natural elements as well as the metaphysical and the spiritual.
THE BACK STORY: The collection took roughly four years to write and was written after my chapbook Avoid Disaster, which deals with superstitions and how they can infiltrate and dictate our lives if we let them. This interest in superstition combined with my grandmother’s death really led me to start thinking about her, spirituality, and the metaphysical. It was an organic process and quite the opposite of my first collection.
I wrote the poems “After the Hard Part Comes the Future” and “Karaj” first and then the other poems started falling into place. I realized that I had tapped into something significant and most importantly something that I was curious about. This led me to write the creative non-fiction essay “It Came From.” The essay was very deliberate—it was a sort of defense of magic and the supernatural. I felt a real need to document everything that I was experiencing that couldn’t be explained. I didn’t realize, though, that the essay would be a bridge from my grandmother to me.
WHY THIS TITLE?: Malak was my grandmother’s name and she is at the center of the collection, every word orbiting around her. I sent the collection out with other titles like After the Hard Comes the Future and It Came From, but Malak seemed simple while also intriguing.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think the collection is unique in that it explores what is passed down from generation to generation but not in just physical traits. This can also include psychic gifts. The book also consists of poetry and prose. This is partially because I really admire collections where you can tell the writer/poet allowed it to be what it needed to be and sometimes that means including multiple genres (Kate Greenstreet’s Young Tambling was a huge influence). It was also my way of coming at the same subject matter in different languages (prose and poetry). My hope is that it is an exploration of what it means to be unable to explain phenomena while also still believing in them. Ultimately, I think Malak is my way of finding out who I am and what that means in a world that doesn’t necessarily want or accept me and I think that’s relatable for many, many people.
Malak is a work of intimate and intricate craft. — Sarala Estruch
“[A] dazzling and precious collection of personal poems, which reward the reader with deep-felt emotion. — Lyn Greenwood.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Some of my favorite conversations I have are with my good friend and poet Komal Mathew. We co-edit the literary journal Josephine Quarterly together and we have these terrific discussions about the work we receive. It’s such a gift to be able to be a part of the literary community in that way. I love celebrating other poets and artists and having the opportunity to give back.
I’m also grateful for the dialogue I have with my poetry workshop students. I learn something about poetry every semester and it’s such a wonderful thing to be a mentor to them. While I’m not necessarily writing poems, essays, or short stories in either of these situations, they’re so important to who I am as a writer.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: It’s very important to me to be who I am even if I am reminded constantly how this country or the world feels about me, an Iranian-Mexican-American woman. I really wanted to let people into what it is like to be me as much as I could. It’s also my hope that people come to the book open and willing to learn not only about other cultures but about those things we can’t explain (like clairvoyance and psychokinesis).
“Karaj” (from Malak) in Thrush Poetry Journal http://www.thrushpoetryjournal.com/may-2014-jenny-sadre-orafai.html
Three poems from Malak in The Collapsar https://thecollapsar.org/the-collapsar-archive/2016/09/21/three-poems-by-jenny-sadre-orafai
WHERE TO BUY IT: Platypus Press: http://platypuspress.co.uk/malak
Amazon (Kindle Version Only): https://www.amazon.com/Malak-Jenny-Sadre-Orafai-ebook/dp/B0761TXY88 PRICE: $16.00.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: jennysadre-orafai.com or on Twitter (@jennys_o)