The Knot of My Tongue: Poems and Prose (Paperback)

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For readers of Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come for Us, here is a searing, multidimensional debut about the search for language and self, which is life itself.

I knew it was time to build what could carry, what could find the high point
to name what I knew to be the world and carry it with me

At the heart of The Knot of My Tongue is Zehra Naqvi’s storying of language itself and the self-re-visioning that follows devastating personal rupture. Employing a variety of poetic forms, these intimate, searching poems address generations, continents, and dominions to examine loss of expression in the aftermath of collisions with powerful forces, ranging from histories to intimacies. 

Naqvi follows a cast of characters from personal memory, family history, and Quranic traditions, at instances where they have either been rendered silent or found ways to attempt the inexpressible—a father struggling to speak as an immigrant in Canada; a grandmother as she loses her children and her home after the 1947 Partition; the Islamic story of Hajar, abandoned in the desert without water; the myth of Philomela who finds language even after her husband cuts off her tongue.  

Brilliantly blending the personal and the communal, memory and myth, theology and tradition, the poems in this collection train our attention—slow and immediate, public and private—on our primal ability to communicate, recover, and survive. This example is striking for the power of its speaking through loss and a singular, radiant vision.

About the Author

ZEHRA NAQVI is a Karachi-born writer raised on unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver, BC). She is a winner of the 2021 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers awarded by the Writers’ Trust of Canada. Her poem “forgetting urdu” was the winner of Room’s 2016 Poetry Contest. Zehra has written and edited for various publications internationally. She holds two MSc degrees in migration studies and social anthropology from Oxford University where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. The Knot of My Tongue is her debut poetry collection.

Praise For…

Praise for The Knot of My Tongue and Zehra Naqvi

“[A] beautiful, no-holds-barred first collection. 'The Knot' skillfully threads stories from family, Quranic traditions, myth, the 1947 Partition, and struggles as immigrants in a new country, among other things, to explore violence and horrors both historic and personal, the strength of family and female connections, and self-discovery, on and off the page. These poems are made of survival, moving forward, all the while ensuring nothing is ‘unwitnessed, nothing forgotten.’” —Toronto Star

“Naqvi’s work seamlessly blends the personal and the communal, memory and myth, theology, and tradition. Through an exploration of language and loss, this book offers insights into the power inherent in speaking through adversity, presenting a singular vision that is compelling in its emotional resonance.” —BC Bookworld

“In Zehra Naqvi’s The Knot of My Tongue, the titular reference to Musa’s prayer to be understood, Musa’s prayer for witness, animates these poems, reiterates the prayer, and meets it with action. Silence and storytelling form a lush tapestry, a tender and rigorous interrogation, tightly knotted in the long history of women, beginning here in these poems to unknot.” —Safia Elhillo, author of Girls That Never Die

“Zehra Naqvi knows the poetry of rain. Remembering barish, for baba, the poet has walked continents away, still singing the intimacies and mythologies of family and home. After the storm, out beyond moments and rooms, Naqvi determines the form, reads her own body, and carries the day with this shining debut—elegant and unforgettable.” —Cecily Nicholson, author of Harrowings

“‘Here in the after / how do I give myself form?’ Zehra Naqvi’s debut book of poems is a steady reckoning with inheritance: a contention of private pain against rituals of collective mourning that venerate female prophetic voices of witness from Hajar to Zainab. The Knot of My Tongue moves through forms of pilgrimage both embodied (as the Arba’in walk from Najaf to Karbala) and as an introspective reclamation of the will, the splendid emergence of the poetic self.” —Rahat Kurd, author of Cosmophilia

“It’s clear to me that Zehra Naqvi’s long-awaited debut is a future classic. The Knot of My Tongue weaves matriarchal elegy and triumph into an absolutely riveting, multilingual devotion that echoes long after the last page. This is a text I will return to and learn from again and again.” —Leah Horlick, author of Moldovan Hotel

“In the tradition of the many great poet-revolutionaries, Naqvi deploys lan­guage like a tool: as a call to action, testament against injustice, and container for ancestral memories. More than that, however, she guides us, expertly and with great vulnerability, through the spaces between words towards those truths that are only found beyond the pale of language.” —Irfan Ali, author of Accretion

Product Details
ISBN: 9780771014932
ISBN-10: 0771014937
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: March 26th, 2024
Pages: 96
Language: English