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Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  64 ratings  ·  12 reviews
This groundbreaking, transgenre work--part detective story, part literary memoir, part imagined past--is intensely autobiographical and confessional. Proceeding sentence by sentence, city by city, and backwards in time, poet and essayist Kazim Ali details the struggle of coming of age between cultures, overcoming personal and family strictures to talk about private affairs ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Wesleyan University Press
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Poets.org from the Academy of American Poets
Prepare for the 2010 Poets Forum in New York City (October 28-30) by reading Ali's newest book of poetry, and check out the Poets Forum 2010 bookshelf for the latest collections by each of the poets participating in the Poets Forum. Happy reading!
Emma
Really beautiful, interesting book, part poetry, part prose. I feel like I didn't fully grasp all there is in it, and am looking forward to returning to it many times.
Kevin
Beautiful and mysterious. This is biography, geography, and ruminations on what it means to be gay and Muslim, while at the same time it is poetry and syntax.
Kima
Bright Felon is a meditation on geography, religion and the self. Using experimental poetry that visually looks like single-lined essays, Ali writes about heartache and the mundane in each city he lives in over a course of five years. This book is as much an instrument on how to place poetry as much as it is not. Ali could've really stunned with this collection had he swapped out some of the everyday for the religious and historical.
Joe
Dec 14, 2012 Joe added it
This and "Winged Seed" have me convinced that memoir should belong to the poets. Fiction's virtue is that its own artificiality is obvious. However, in memoir too much is lost when actual experience is neatly narrativized. Memory doesn't work like that. Anyway. Pair this with Li-Young Lee's Winged Seed and get started on some big dumb essay about place, culture, migration and etc, someone.
Erin
This is a very interesting book of poetry. Ali tells his story in word play and almost in circles. You really have to read between the lines and words in this book to try to understand what Ali is trying to say. He is very crafty and smart. Great book!
Thing Two
Aug 11, 2012 Thing Two rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Thing Two by: Stonecoast
Loved it!

This is stream of consciousness poetry, and is his very personal struggle with life, family, culture, and sexual orientation alongside his description of the cities he's either lived in or visited. It's original, and was exciting to read.
Odette
Interesting and confusing, as I find all poetry, or prose poetry, or whatever you want to call this. The words sounded pretty together, but most of the time it was hard to tell what was actually happening, which I guess was the point.
Gabe Kalmuss-Katz
May 12, 2012 Gabe Kalmuss-Katz is currently reading it
Man is this good so far. There aren't nearly enough books (poetry or otherwise) which focus on the intrinsic connection that the physical place which contain our lives have to our development, emotions, and thoughts.
Rae
Wow. Shifted my thinking entirely about what parts of autobiography are useful (useful? maybe most telling?) to anyone holding life in one hand and the impulse to create literature in the other.
Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
amazing journey, kazim-traipser candlelit alleyborne and freebursting. My review in The Brooklyn Rail:
http://brooklynrail.org/2009/11/books...
Jay Z
This is exactly the kind of experimental writing that usually drives me insane. But I liked this! It was poignant.
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Kazim Ali (born 1971) is an American poet, novelist, essayist and professor. His most recent books are The Disappearance of Seth (Etruscan Press, 2009) and Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (Wesleyan University Press, 2009). His honors include an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. His poetry and essays have been featured in many literary journals and magazines including T ...more
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“God's true language: Hebrew. Latin. Arabic. Sanskrit.

As if utterance fit into the requirements of the human mouth.

I learned how to find the new moon by looking for the circular absence of stars. [...]

I learned God's true language is only silence and breath.”
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