Solmaz Sharif and the poetics of a new American generation

John Freeman in the Los Angeles Times:

ScreenHunter_2090 Jul. 13 22.49Step gently on words such as “home” or “citizen” or even “body” with a foot bornelsewhere and they combust. Place names are even more incendiary. What happens when we read BEIRUT or TEHRAN or SAIGON while sitting at a cafe in Santa Monica?

This is war’s lexicon. It incorporates and redefines, especially by naming. In the U.S., recent Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Nguyen reminds us, we know the conflict as the Vietnam War; in Saigon, they call it the American War.

If writers must return history to human scale, the last decade of American life has proved just how necessary their linguistic re-engineering will be, even within our borders. In “Citizen,” Claudia Rankine showed it was possible to rescue the suffering of black bodies from spectacle if we questioned how we watched and from where.

Meanwhile, a new generation of poets — all descendants of the American Empire — have undertaken a project similar to Rankine’s on two fronts: retelling the myth of their being, and reclaiming language which has attempted to claim them.

More here.