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Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities

Overview

This groundbreaking, transgenre 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, ...
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Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities

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Overview

This groundbreaking, transgenre 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. A reader’s companion is available at http://brightfelonreader.site.wesleyan.edu/
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Ali, journeying backwards through autobiography, writes an elegy for lost love and unrequited faith—another kind of exile.”—Lori Tsang, MultiCultural Review

“The pleasure of reading Bright Felon derives in large part from its invitation to us to give ourselves over to the music of language.”—Lee Sharkey, Beloit Poetry Journal

“The speed and energy of this language, and its confident movement, are undeniable and compelling….There is a lovely plenitude in the embroidery woven out of these journeys, inner and outer…the rich and nuanced tracings of contemporary experience Ali offers here are reward enough.”—Jeff Gundy, The Georgia Review

“Bright Felon is a troubling work of unrelieved sadness and relentless self-examination and yet, for all that, it is also a monument to a yearning for oblivion, a desire so unimpeachable at its center it reminds us that there are no happy endings—only intervals of relief.”—Tyrone Williams, The Volta

Publishers Weekly
“What do I really want to share with people? Not of my methods but of myself?” asks Ali in his third collection, a captivating song of himself that passionately excavates the interdependence between geography and identity. Ali, who is also a novelist, presents a candid history of his wandering life—“I have lived in six cities in five years”— which has perpetually taken place by a river (the Hudson, Nile or Seine), always carrying with him a desire to uncover the hidden aspects of a city and, in turn, his multitudinous self (“Under any city other cities exist. Under any body other bodies”). Ali recounts his journey backward in lists of images and thoughts, and the book's 15 sections are each devoted to a particular city, maintaining a strong narrative arc throughout, crossing genre lines to read as a kind of literary-journalistic, autobiographical text. Ali knows the power of facts; he writes of his time in New York City: “I was in exile, living out of a suitcase in a completely empty apartment in the deserted money district.” This is a fascinating work, brimming with bold meditations on religion, sexuality and what it means to live the life of an artist. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Though this latest book is biographical in style, Ali (The Fortieth Day) borders across many literary genres. With a sense of urgency, the poet tells the tales of a wanderer who registers the flood of colors, images, scenes, memories, secret desires, and his personal views in order to give them a unique form and entity. Collage bends his worlds, and a stream-of-consciousness strategy entertains his inner thoughts. Ali reflects on his life and culture in fragments drizzled by aphoristic lines such as "Under my city other cities still exist. Under my body other bodies." Thematically, the book is structured much like loose thoughts and ideas written on a deck of index cards that the poet alludes to in some of his pieces. VERDICT Ali's book establishes writing as a process of conversations with the self and with the other in an intimate and engaging way. An enjoyable reading experience for both poetry lovers and initiates. [Previewed in "Editors' Fall Picks," LJ 9/1/09.]—Sadiq Alkoriji, South Regional Lib., Broward Cty., FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819572769
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2012
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 1,429,220
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Meet the Author

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.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Marble Hill
Carlisle
Beacon
Rhinebeck
Cairo
New York City
Paris
Corsica
Paris
New York City
Buffalo
Washington, DC
Albany
Home
Barcelona (an Epilogue)
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