By: Ali Znaidi
Sana Rafiq-Mitchell opens her collection with “If poetry is an eruption volcanic”. This may be the gist or the manifesto of the book. Nomenclature is important because mortality is associated with being nameless. One also realizes that loss is associated with refusal. With the sheer passage of time it becomes obvious life is journey and nothing makes this journey worthy of living but the search for a certain meaning. Finding that meaning is a process, not the goal. According to her, the quest involves discovering that thin line between abstraction and the concrete aspects of things:
between the wings of a dove
searching for the answers
This collection struggles with the pragmatics of naming, self-identity and love. Thus, the poetry highlights the dichotomies that stain our lives. Hence the poet adopts a minimalistic style deeply immersed in the post-modernistic experience as an attempt to bridge the gap between all those dichotomies. The poet has honed the appropriate style that is remarkable for its unique combination of depth and lightness. It is tempting to say that lightness becomes synonymous to depth. This finds expression in those lines from “Praises”:
when the smallest of creatures
pine after the cool shades
of the evening sun
Though the sun is about to set it remains giant compared to the tiniest creatures. The poet exploits this dichotomy to remember the dying voice of the beloved.
Back again to dichotomies, the poet invests a sufi atmosphere to convey that death and freedom are interchangeable terms. Once again this is expressed in a marvelous minimalist way reminiscent of the style of Omar Khayyám or Rumi:
I had nothing
but the cage of mortality
to bind me
to free me
Some humouristic flavours, particularly coated in caustic remarks, reside beneath the dichotomies that govern the book:
even the five-year-old knows the difference
between a democrat and a republican
The poet views the world differently, and her awareness of the dichotomies functions as a way not to be “duped” because salvation lies in the fact of being on the outside, disconnected with any agent of domination:
It must be Art
not to belong anywhere
or to anyone
preserved in anonymous memories,
In skillful depictions, the quotidian becomes mystic and more importantly, a philosophical canvas. Here, the poet seeks refuge in anonymity to commune with her inner self. And she shares the experience with us, outlining how she ritualistically is still in the process of searching for a name:
they named me when I came into
from parents so extreme in their
that I am Sana
a girl still
The book also invites the reader to explore the issues of desire and lust in a smooth erotic way. Gradually, the book becomes a banquet for the senses that the reader will hardly regret:
Fingers trace the edges of her smooth skin
above that fissure where pleasures moan
and rivers surge,
Though Sana Rafiq-Mitchell’s thoughts are desultory and “scatter[ing] like wild flowers” this collection is a skillfully woven tapestry that finds its unity in transcending mortality. “[U]ntil the smoke clears” you can immerse yourself in the flowing lavas of her eruptive verse.
Order your kindle copy of Nameless through Amazon. Self-published (December 5, 2015). ASIN: B01902U5I0.
Sana Rafiq-Mitchell (b. 1985) is the editor of the literary e-zine The Neglected Ratio.
Review by Ali Znaidi, a poet from Tunisia.