This groundbreaking, trans-genre work—part detective story, part literary memoir, part imagined past—is intensely autobiographical and confessional. Proceeding sentence by sentence, city by city, and backwards in time, poet and essayist Kazim Ali details the struggle of coming of age between cultures, overcoming personal and family strictures to talk about private affairs and secrets long held. The text is comprised of sentences that alternate in time, ranging from discursive essay to memoir to prose poetry. Art, history, politics, geography, love, sexuality, writing, and religion, and the role silence plays in each, are its interwoven themes. Bright Felon is literally “autobiography” because the text itself becomes a form of writing the life, revealing secrets, and then, amid the shards and fragments of experience, dealing with the aftermath of such revelations. Bright Felon offers a new and active form of autobiography alongside such texts as Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, and Etel Adnan’s In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country.
From the Book:
You wouldn’t think I would have wanted a beacon. Rather to find myself in the wilderness on my own.
But I did, I always did.
Could there have been someone else like me, not one thing not another, barely able to choose.
A poet, a Muslim, and of a particular persuasion.
When I knew someone like me I barely knew him and we couldn’t bring ourselves to speak of the one thing we needed to speak to each other about.
Silence stretched between us taut as sin.
In 2004 I moved with Marco down the river to Beacon, NY.
Named for the signal fires placed on top of each mountain in chain running from New York City to Albany.
So if either city fell to the British the insurgents at the other end would know about it.
I placed signal fires up and down each street, so anxious I was to belong somewhere.
—From the chapter “Beacon”
“Bright Felon will steal your heart and outrage your poetics. Part memoir, part trip book, part literary discourse, there is in it an urgent sense of a life lived in words. The tale is one of both innocence and experience. Rigorous, romantic, experimental, true, and yet mysterious, it is a book for the ages.” —Laura Moriarty, author of A Semblance: Selected and New Poems, 1975–2007
“Kazim Ali writes in Bright Felon a prose shaped by the various cities he has lived and loved in. This is a book that is so much more than memoir or autobiography. It is embodied and questioning and it carries through its politics a grace and generosity. —Juliana Spahr, author of Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You
KAZIM ALI is the author of two books of poetry, The Far Mosque (2004) and The Fortieth Day (2008). He is an assistant professor of creative writing at Oberlin College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the University of Southern Maine. He is one of the founding editors of Nightboat Books.
The text above was copied from the website of book distributor, University Press of New England
Below is a detail from my map Manhattan & Brooklyn Bridge Quilt, which is featured on the cover of the book:
Related New York City Entries: