Two Poems

Poetry / Nazifa Islam

:: Separate ::

          a found poem: Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

I believe in horror—that fear persists.
Change leaps upon me—violent, tearing—
and I am in pieces. 

One moment and I know I am not indivisible.
I do have a body but my face
is half-eaten—I have no beauty.
The shock is endless.

I press my hand to moonlight, see it foam
and draw back; I cannot force it
to merge with me.

I am bone and paper and green hours.
I am nothing. I grow
afraid because there is no end in view.


:: I Cannot Save Myself ::

          a found poem: Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

Now the kitchen door slams and dogs bark.
Now long hands shut a black book.
Now the others are crying. Now terror

stumbles in me. Now time—
green and wild—ticks on painfully.
Now the entire world

of stones and chalk and water is beginning
to look far away. Now it is my turn.
I am a looped figure on a blackboard

and I have begun to die.


From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems are part of a series of Virginia Woolf found poems I’m currently working on. To write these poems, I select a paragraph of text from a Woolf novel—so far, either The Waves or Mrs. Dalloway—and only use the words from that paragraph to create a poem. I essentially write a poem while doing a word search using Virginia Woolf as source material. I don’t allow myself to repeat words, add words, or edit the language for tense or any other consideration. I started this project after writing what I considered a successful found poem using only the words found in an Amazon product review. I then decided I would attempt found poems based on literary source material I felt particularly connected to. These poems are simultaneously defined by both Woolf’s choices with language as well as my own.


Nazifa Islam grew up in Novi, Michigan. Her poetry and paintings have appeared in Anomalous Press, Fourth & Sycamore, splinterswerve, and The Harpoon Review, among other publications, and her debut poetry collection Searching for a Pulse (2013) was released by Whitepoint Press. She earned her MFA at Oregon State University. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @nafoopal.