Solmaz Sharif’s poetry collection, Look, is a powerful and moving exploration of language, war, and memory. Through her innovative use of language, Sharif captures the complexity and tragedy of the war in Iran, as well as the broader impact of militarism and violence on society.
One of the most striking features of Look is the way Sharif incorporates military terminology and jargon into her poems, challenging readers to confront the dehumanizing language of war. For example, in “Contaminated Remains” Sharif uses a list of military terms to show the human cost of war, highlighting the lives lost and the families left behind. This technique is both effective and affecting, making the poems feel urgent and deeply personal.
Another strength of Look is the way Sharif weaves together different narratives and voices, creating a complex and nuanced portrait of war and its aftermath. Through poems like “Deception Story” and “Desired Appreciation,” Sharif explores the experiences of soldiers, civilians, and families affected by war, as well as the broader societal impact of militarism and violence. By bringing together these different perspectives, Sharif creates a rich and multifaceted account of the human toll of war.
At the same time, Look is also a deeply personal and emotional collection, as Sharif grapples with her own family history and the legacy of war. In “Reaching Guantanamo,” for example, Sharif explores the speaker’s relationship with “Salim,” via the equivalent of wartime “Dear John” letters–letters the speaker knows will never be returned, perhaps never read. Through her use of language and imagery, Sharif captures the complexity and ambivalence of relationships strained by forced separation (a war prisoner and the person they left behind), as well as the ways in which personal and political histories are intertwined.
Overall, Look is an extraordinary collection of poetry that offers a powerful and nuanced perspective on the impact of war on society and the human spirit. Sharif’s willingness to confront the difficult realities of war makes this collection a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of language, politics, and the human experience.
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