REGISTERS OF ILLUMINATED VILLAGES

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REGISTERS OF ILLUMINATED VILLAGES, BY TARFIA FAIZULLAH

Tarfia Faizullah’s second collection, Registers of Illuminated Villages, sings with many voices, in multiple languages. The book opens and closes with quotes from Nina Simone: “I do not count the time” and “I do not fear time,” with the closing lines revising the opening. The title of the first poem is also revised—“Register of Eliminated Villages,” a near-match to the book title, but with a distinct difference—the eliminated become illuminated. These lyrics speak of grief, trauma, and human suffering; yet beyond a series of shrouds (gauze, mesh screens, bodies “hidden by cotton or lace”...) light always glows. Faizullah insists that hope can be found in prayer and song, in the daily rituals of cooking and reading, or in a cab ride, though it is often fleeting. These pages are violent and haunted by the voices of the dead, yet insist on endurance: “I did not die. I did not die” and new beginnings, always with the possibility of “the world [as] an orange freshly peeled.” Time is cyclical and she keeps returning, revisiting, determined that this time, something will be different: “In the end, / there’s only one way to begin / an origin story: at the beginning. I know / a good one: a monster named Joy- / in-the-Margins learns the nature of light / by revising the dark into song with every / register of her seven tongues. / Ready? Let’s begin.”

Graywolf Press.