Kazim Ali uses a range of subjects—the politics of checkpoints at international borders; difficulties in translation; collaborations between poets and choreographers; and connections between poetry and landscape, or between biotechnology and the human body—to situate the individual human body into a larger global context, with all of its political and social implications. He finds in the quality of ecstatic utterance his passport to regions where reason and logic fail and the only knowledge is instinctual, in physical existence and breath. This collection includes Ali’s essays on topics such as Anne Carson’s translations of Euripides; the poetry and politics of Mahmoud Darwish; Josey Foo’s poetry/dance collaborations with choreographer Leah Stein; Olga Broumas’ collaboration with T. Begley; Jorie Graham’s complication of Kenneth Goldsmith’s theories; the postmodern spirituality of the 14th century Kashmiri mystic poet Lalla; translations of Homer, Mandelstam, Sappho, and Hafez; as well as the poet Reetika Vazirani’s practice of yoga.
“Ali has a vibrant and generous personality that lets one hear the inner music that makes us remember what it is to be human.”
—Painted Bride Quarterly
"I stayed up all night reading this book. I recommend this. In the quiet of night, these essays will move through you the way they are meant to: as meditation, as incantation, as prayer. With impassioned commitment, Ali confronts the spiritual, political, poetic, erotic problem of the self. Are we our name, our body, our speech, our history, our nation? Yes to all. No to all. 'The law marks the body, documents it, scrutinizes it, registers it, permits it, manipulates it, suppresses it, denies it, forbids it, kills it,' Ali writes. But resistance is not a simple act of reclaiming, for the queer body, the south-Asian body, the Muslim body, the wandering body, the writing body, the body of a dancer and yogi does not know itself as a thing to be claimed. Racism, capitalism, empire, heteronormativity: the four pillars of the American dream are brilliantly interrogated again and again, with poetry as the resounding voice that questions, and in questioning, opens a breathing space in the dark."
—Julie Carr, author of 100 Notes on Violence and RAG
Kazim Ali has given us another generous, brave, ambitious, and wise book. Resident Alien is generous with its intelligent consideration of other writers; it is brave in its crossing of highly charged political and national boundaries; it is ambitious in the number of necessary and urgent themes it explores; and it is particularly wise in the ways it addresses the intersection of sex, spirit, and language. Ali’s precise and passionate prose shows us again how lucky we are to have among us a practitioner of a poetics of such rare depth, rigor, originality, and vulnerability.
—Brian Teare, author of The Empty Form Goes All the Way to Heaven