On this final day of our National Poetry Month Celebration, we’re happy to share the poem ‘Commandments (The Sure Route to Success in Western Art)’ from Moez Surani’s latest collection, Are the Rivers in Your Poems Real.
Amidst the dangers of figurative language, the coercion of sentimentality, and the insidious freight of abstraction, Surani’s poems embody the necessity for the critical, the communal, the real. Are the Rivers in Your Poems Real uses conceptual critiques of public discourse and experimental social cartographies, as well as lyrics of intimacy, to defy prescribed ways of being. This is an act of resistance against dangerous and domineering narratives, and the power they inscribe.
“Moez Surani has boundless enthusiasm for life, cities, nature, politics, and art. He is an explorer,” writes Ian Williams, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Reproduction. “Are the Rivers in Your Poems Real obsessively catalogues these explorations in an attempt to preserve our world, both personal and political, in its complexity. Surani leaves us a record of conversations, of the days he was in love, of the kilometers between himself and his ancestors, even of phone numbers to call for happiness. (I hope someone calls.) He chronicles the news of our time: KKK endorsements, Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, Yemeni refugees, the waning American empire.”
Surani reads “Commandments (The Sure Route to Success in Western Art),” a poem from the collection, in the following audio clip:
Moez Surani’s writing has been published internationally, including in Harper’s Magazine, the Awl, Best American Experimental Writing 2016, Best Canadian Poetry (2013 and 2014), and the Globe and Mail. He has received a Chalmers Arts Fellowship, which supported research in India and East Africa, and has been an Artist-in-Residence in Burma, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Taiwan, Switzerland, as well as the Banff Centre for the Arts. He is the author of three poetry books: Reticent Bodies (2009), Floating Life (2012), and Operations (2016), which is comprised of the names of military operations and reveals a globe-spanning inventory of the contemporary rhetoric of violence. Surani lives in Toronto.