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MG Book Review: ‘Look’ by Solmaz Sharif

MG Book Review: ‘Look’ by Solmaz Sharif

Solmaz Sharif’s first book of poems, “LOOK,” is hauntingly beautiful. I couldn’t put it down and when I did I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Each time I’ve read it, (so far, three times) it has evoked a different meaning and a different feeling from me.

Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Sharif later migrated to America where she studied poetry at UC Berkeley and New York University. She is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University. “LOOK” is her first published collection of poems.

One critique by Eavan Boland reads, “Solmaz Sharif’s beautiful and important poems patrol the boundaries and limits of language. They show how words can demean experience and also lift it up…”

The poetry in “LOOK” touches the topics of the Iran-Iraq war, the war in the middle east, Guantanamo, the military and family whilst picking up on religion and culture.

Words can be powerful and Sharif uses them to their full potential. She uses words from the United States Department of Defense’s ‘Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms’ in beautiful harmony with the rest of her poems and it gives you a chilling reality of the dichotomy of the world as well as the casual use of language.
In her poem, “Look,” she writes,
“Whereas it could take as long as 16 seconds between the trigger pulled in Las Vegas and the Hellfire missile landing in Mazar-e-Sharif, after which they will ask Did we hit a child? No. A dog. they will answer themselves
Whereas the federal judge at the sentencing hearing said I want to make sure I pronounce the defendant’s name correctly;
Whereas this lover would pronounce my name and call me Exquisite and lay the floor lamp across the floor, softening even the light…”
The poetry in “LOOK” touches the topics of the Iran-Iraq war, the war in the middle east, Guantanamo, the military and family whilst picking up on religion and culture all enveloped in vocabulary used by the military which is “updated regularly, often monthly, with unclassified terms being added and subtracted as needed.”
The constant change in the dictionary itself symbolizes the difficulty in understanding war.

She uses words from the United States Department of Defense’s ‘Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms’ in beautiful harmony with the rest of her poems and it gives you a chilling reality of the dichotomy of the world as well as the casual use of language.

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And that is what Sharif tries to do where she dives into war taking perspectives from civilians and describing them with military vocabulary.
This is a brilliant book of poetry, which I recommend for everyone to read to really look at the state of the world and the reality of war.
You can buy “LOOK” at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

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