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In Customs, Solmaz Sharif examines what it means to exist in the nowhere of the arrivals terminal, a continual series of checkpoints, officers, searches, and questionings that become a relentless experience of America. With resignation and austerity, these poems trace a pointed indoctrination to the customs of the nation-state and the English language, and the realities they impose upon the imagination, the paces they put us through. While Sharif critiques the culture of performed social skills and poetry itself—its foreclosures, affects, successes—she begins to write her way out to the other side of acceptability and toward freedom.
Customs is a brilliant, excoriating new collection by a poet whose unfolding works are among the groundbreaking literature of our time.
“With an anthropological eye, Sharif’s reflections on freedom, consumerism and loyalty are at once witty and incisive. . . . As she masterfully traverses the landscape of exile and all its complicated grief, Sharif manages, with conviction and consistency, to make the reader feel welcome.”—Jessica Gigot, New York Times Book Review
“Blistering in its clear-sightedness, this collection offers a fierce, beautiful closing that dares to imagine ‘a beckoning, a way.’ A bold and uncompromising book with virtuosic emotional range; highly recommended.”—Library Journal, starred review
“Sharif demonstrates remarkable talent in her ability to so deftly portray the traumatizing balance required to live in the West with deep roots in Iran.”—Michael Ruzicka, Booklist, starred review
“Sharif's commanding voice reverberates throughout this complex and confident collection.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Dazzling. . . . Sharif’s language is spare and all the more sharp for what remains, for all that she has left out, as the sculptor does with a slab of marble. . . . This is poetry—this is a poet—that marvels us in manners minute and majestic.”—Mandana Chaffa, Ploughshares
“Sharif’s ruminations on language in Customs—and how to keep it alive and potent—cement her position as one of the most thoughtful poets working today.”—Christos Kalli, Harvard Review
“Spectacular. . . . In a massive feat, Customs continues the work of Look, pushing its mission forward with a new slate of sharp, memorable pieces that are set to inspire yet another generation.”—Summer Farah, Cleveland Review of Books
“Sharif masterfully blends, develops, and transforms her imagery throughout Customs in such a seamless and unexpected way that the reader effortlessly follows these gorgeous, golden, and intelligent threads all the way to the brink of epiphany and beyond.”—Veronica Schorr, New York Journal of Books