Before I Had the Word: Poems

Before I Had the Word: Poems

by Brooke Sahni
Before I Had the Word: Poems

Before I Had the Word: Poems

by Brooke Sahni

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The poems in Before I Had the Word explore the divine within the secular, mundane world, and often challenge the definition of holiness. Sahni uses her religious and cultural backgrounds—Sikhism and Judaism—as springboards from which to question notions of the ecstatic in nature, sexuality and the body. Religious and spiritual ways of knowing; the sacred in the mundane; how knowledge and story manifest in the body; language and how one shapes meaning, are also central to this work. Language, the speaker might argue, seeks to create meaning much in the same way religions and spiritualties do, but ultimately falls short due to the ineffability of the ecstatic experience. The book attempts to conflate, even dissolve the idea that mundane experience is separate from religious, holy experience—it all depends on how one would choose to word it. Some might use god or holy, the speaker might use elm or paper or even questions. In a book that seems more concerned with the questions rather than the answers, the speaker tries to fill absence of all kinds—cultural, sexual, etc.—with knowledge.

The poems in Before I Had the Word are exploratory, narrative-driven, and seek to challenge religious doctrine without making any accusations. Even when Sahni comes close to challenging organized religion, she still poses that interrogation as a question: “I’m not saying we should replace god with art, or am I?” The poems are unified in their mission to question rather than to answer.

Many of the poems that make up Before I Had the Word have been published in Prairie Schooner, Cimarron Review, The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly, Nimrod, 32 Poems and elsewhere.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781680032581
Publisher: Texas Review Press
Publication date: 11/15/2021
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 92
File size: 975 KB

About the Author

BROOKE SAHNI is the author of Divining which won the Orison Chapbook Prize. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in magazines such as Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Cimarron Review, Denver Quarterly and elsewhere. She lives in New Mexico.

Read an Excerpt

from “Sikh Coming from the Punjabi Meaning Disciple or Seeker
The English root of Sikh
is seek, learn or study
                        for years, I thought
                        to be a disciple meant I must grow
down into a small
thing—there was no seeking
                                                just surrender

Table of Contents

Before I had the word 1

Sikh Coming from the Punjabi Meaning Disciple or Seeker 2

G-d, a Portrait 3

Mongifera Indica 4

Language Lesson 5

Heritage Day 6

Leaving a Scripture 7

How to Build a Body 8

Notes on Midrash 10

Lore 15

Natural Law 16

Divine Law 17

The Sensuous Woman by J 18

In yourgirlhood 19

Order 20

Creation Myth 21

To the girl who cried overgrass 22

Whose Kingdom 23

What My Mother Knows 24

Divining 25

Reform 26

Notes on Midrash 30

Jettison 34

The Body of the Guru 42

Why I ask for you to come in dreams 43

What We Believed 44

On Absence 45

Notes on the Amorphous 46

After Watching Religulous With a Friend 47

Book Arts 48

Inflorescence 50

Casting, Pulling 51

If you took out the e, you could be like the stream 52

Ritual, Begging 53

The Golden Reserve 54

Acknowledgments 56

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