Tarfia Faizullah, Weaving Dualities and Distances in her Latest

Tarfia Faizullah talks about formatting of her book:

Seam is a book that narratively and structurally relies on distance: between two continents and cultures as well as between the year of Bangladesh’s independence and its modern moment. “1971,” for example, the first poem of the book, imagines the Bangladeshi-American interviewer imagining her mother as a young girl watching her mother bathe in a pond during the war. When I returned from Bangladesh, I had a stack of six years’ worth of poems. Only then was I able to begin the work of shaping Seam into a collection that tries to both enact and traverse that distance.

The author says about her time spent in Bangladesh:

One of the main reasons I applied for a Fulbright to Bangladesh was because I had started to worry about the ethical consequences of “Interview with a Birangona.” So many of the women who were raped in 1971 are still alive in Bangladesh, and I began to question whether the project was appropriating the voices of the very women I was struggling to render and understand.

Seam could not have happened without my time in Bangladesh, where I spent a year researching the war and interviewing many birangona. My daily life also became part of the mosaic of my time in Bangladesh, and therefore part of Seam.

During this time, Faizullah translated Bangladeshi poetry–of the language, she says:

It wasn’t until I began translating that I realized how much I took for granted how deeply metaphorical and musical Bengali is until I began translating. “Amar bukh fete jachche,” for example, is a phrase that could loosely translate to “I’m sad,” but literally means, “my chest is exploding.” Translation has made me think about how poetry must do the dual work of being both specific and expansive.

The interview in full, you’ll find here.


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