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.