poems by Hussain Ahmed
Winner of The 2022 Orison Poetry Prize, selected by Rajiv Mohabir
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paper / $18.00
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
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Publication Date: April 2, 2024
ABOUT THE BOOK
Blue Exodus charts a heart's history of home, war, dispossession, and displacement, as well as the human solidarity and sacred rituals that remain despite the loss of so much else. Populated by moons and oceans and birds, as well as missiles and gun magazines, these lush poems carry profound grief but also adamantine hope.
"Prayer, refuge, inheritance, and loss beat in the heart of these poems. Things are not what they seem to be: even in paradise 'a baobab died / with roots inside the ground.' Indeed, these lines ask the reader to interrogate all things in new vocabularies of anguish, born from the inheritor of a war—still being fought in the muscle memory of the people who lived through it. [...] Reading this collection again and again, I come away with the specters of the living and passed, asking me what it means to live as a story lives, to write a life’s ghost into poem. Entreaties to the Divine remain unanswered and unfulfilled as people are sent off to wars or drown in seas trying to escape as the poet reminds us, 'What twirls / over your roof / is either a kite / or a missile.' [...] The speaker-as-witness-as-refugee claims a place to stand in their mourning and grief, where 'echoes are translated into qasida.' Like the speaker calls out to the blackbird, I find myself calling out to the poet, 'saa magni dear bird, / tell me a story.'"
—Rajiv Mohabir, judge of The 2022 Orison Poetry Prize
"Quietly searing, Blue Exodus is a revelatory book full of incisive declarations about grief, ancestry, and exile. Expressing both the sayable and unsayable between line and spacing, the poems are material artifacts that evoke a particular history, while deconstructing its silences. As an archive, the collection itself refuses to locate memory in time, but rather outside time, in people and places, including the sea which 'is not a cemetery, it does not date its memories.' [...] Blue Exodus is a beautifully rendered meditation on belonging and faith, loss and survival, that no one should miss."
"Blue Exodus is an entrancing collection of poems forged in a language of communal adversity, that skillfully paints a portrait of a world where faith and superstition elegantly intertwine, and spiritual rituals gracefully bridge the gap between the earthly and the divine. [...] Blue Exodus threads between silence and song, seamlessly blending cosmological reflections with intimate human experiences in a narrative that is as tender as it is beautiful. Hussain Ahmed is a poet whose voice and poetic instincts inspire trust, and one that we should hold in reverence."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hussain Ahmed is Nigerian, poet, and environmentalist. He holds an MFA from the University of Mississippi and is currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, The Kenyon Review, A Public Space, and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbook Harp in a Fireplace (Newfound, 2021) and the poetry collection Soliloquy with the Ghosts in Nile (Black Ocean Press, 2022).
The Mediterranean remains blue across centuries of swallowing.
Because it is not a cemetery, it does not date its memories.
On the sky is a diary that catalogued the bodies lost to the sea.
In the language of a gong, water clashed against the rocks,
an elegy to the fish that embalmed our dead inside their cold bodies.
After the new millennium, I learned to forget what I cannot save.
A seed vault was built outside a deserted city—obscured with grief,
I searched for familiar faces from the shadows on the walls.
Now, every song in a foreign tongue sounds like a prayer.
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$18.00 Regular Price