Soraya 4.

Poetry / Anis Shivani

:: Soraya 4. ::

Blood of descendants, Soraya, platinum
graphs of Polynesian math, somewhere
in the darwinian islands polymaths’ braille
brains loosen lotus notes, lost for words.
Coloratura saturates democracy taking root
in ashes, aspidistra assigned to blow-dried
circadian dividers of the island. Obloquy
favors ocarina made of occidental mouth-
piece. Phoenix rising from phosphorous
doge telephone, Soraya, your philippic
this examined morning snowing letters
and business, sniffing out the soft clam
wherein I solemnize solfege of typhoon
typewriters. Tweedy, our twilight-fused 
twins, twisting in the wind on twig beds.



From the writer

:: Account ::

“Platinum / graphs of Polynesian math”: Poetic forms congeal and rust over time; their original meaning becomes a burden rather than an aid to liberation. Poetry wants to be free, yet knows freedom is the vastest burden (because meaning comes only from its opposites). The paradox in the preceding statement compels me to articulate new boundaries of freedom, knowing that with each lavish phrase or concept I am further hedging myself in: nevertheless, poetry as pure potential, poetry as the raw input of languages of self-deceit, poetry as the effulgence of dynamic metrics and barely cohering subversions, is what interests me the most at the moment.

“I solemnize solfege of typhoon / typewriters”: In this Soraya sonnet, as in the accompanying 99 others (why 100? because a century is a fickle construct absolutely provocative to historians), I am steeped in a dead (but still kicking) history of surrealism that informs my outward self in a way that usually fails to saturate the inward self. The sonnet splits divisions, heals chasms, bridges separations, is a form of love in its own unique way, for me the most potent of all traditional apparatuses for suture.

“Your philippic / this examined morning snowing letters / and business”: There is something Jungian about the late practice of sonnetteering, knowing as we do that romantic (particularly troubadour) love is a lost cause, has no place in the contemporary economy of meanings, yet we are unable to deny ourselves its valid pleasures. The poet, when he constructs a sonnet today, offers himself up for sacrifice or martyrdom of a dubious kind: in his own image, narcissistic and lushly egoistic, in the eyes of the world, a potent machine for myth-making, fully justified and rationalized. Why not push the duality to extremes?

“Phoenix rising from phosphorous / doge telephone”: The robotic is an obvious corollary that emerges from prettified myth-making of a compulsive kind, and I play with this notion throughout this book—it is a book in the sense that it finally submits to beginning, middle, and end, yet has a dual opinion about its reproducibility, both agnostic and affirmative at the same time. Anyway, robots can be poets and vice versa, or so we are propelled to believe as we waver on the edge of the age of artificial intelligence. What happens to unreconstructed, irreproducible, anomalous intelligence? Is this one of the demons poetry is most urgently fighting today?

“Coloratura saturates democracy taking root / in ashes”: As language becomes flattened in all its usages—comparable to the controlled demolition of surreal urban towers—and proceeds according to a terrorism of diction, why not imagine the impromptu rise of towers taller than any we have warrant for? Why not expect language to rise vertically and at feverish rocket speed from the ashes of the conspiracy that has all but won the day?

“Somewhere / in the darwinian islands polymaths’ braille / brains loosen lotus notes”: From Young Hegelians via Kierkegaard to Nietzsche and beyond (we still live in the corrupted age of Freud, besotted with our vanities) is a fruitless (and often seamless) transition. Along the trail there have been disasters galore, primarily the loss of the ability to articulate, which comes from our flawed notion that everything (poetically) that can be articulated has already been done so, that this is a late, unbemoanable, age of sorts. Nothing could be further from the truth. The world is embryonic and unmade yet; we know not the first thing about language, our fundamental tool of expression; if only we stop trying to bend it just the right way, something new can still be born, and of course it will, there will be a veritable demographic explosion such as will please the hearts of fascists and democrats alike. Not so much hybridity and mongrelization—quaint words, these, at this point in time—as terrorists rigged out in bombs clasping each other under the heavenly spring sunlight. Yes, I was there, and so were you.


Anis Shivani’s sonnet is part of Soraya: Sonnets, forthcoming in early 2015. Sonnets from the book also appear in Black Warrior Review, Borderlands, Everyday Genius, The Journal, Mudlark, Omniverse, Volt, Waxwing, Whiskey Island, and elsewhere. Anis’s recent books include Anatolia and Other Stories, The Fifth Lash and Other Stories, My Tranquil War and Other Poems, and Karachi Raj: A Novel. Books recently finished or in progress include the novels A History of the Cat in Nine Chapters or Less and Abruzzi, 1936, and a collection of essays called Literature in the Age of Globalization.