poem for your pocket

Doyali Islam

copyright ©2019 by Doyali Islam

what my pockets have kept over seasons:

coffee change. house keys. ttc tokens.

emptiness and silence and my ungloved

reticent hands. poems. thoughts of miklós

radnóti – he who hid in his pocket

a thin notebook on his forced march toward

death in some unallied forest.

beyond reason to one mass grave, one mass
silence. still, one silence his overcoat

pocket would not keep: eighteen months
passed before his wife unpacked that pocket

of earth – rifled through corpses, clothing – found
what remained. it was love. love rifled through

miklós’s silences – love gave his damp
last pages back to sunlight’s keep. oh yes

yes, it was love announcing in him, i
will find my way to you, i will come back.

Notes on the Poem

We continue this week with Poem of the Week choices that come from the seven works on the recently announced 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist. As we did last week, we are showcasing two selections again this week. This is a bit of a departure from our usual weekly schedule to ensure that you get to enjoy selections from the entire shortlist before the accelerated 2020 winners announcement on May 19th. The first of two selections this week comes from heft by Doyali Islam. In a brief CBC interview, poet Doyali Islam packs in a plethora of rich insights into heft and her creative process, as well as potent advice for aspiring poets: She reveals that as she was crafting the work that became part of this collection, she was asking herself a lot of questions, including "Where is tenderness in our world?" and "Where are resilience and resourcefulness in daily life?" The poem "poem for your pocket" answers those questions to both startling and heartening effect. In it, the poem contrasts the mundane contents of the narrator's pocket to the lengths to which Hungarian Miklós Radnóti went to hide messages of courage and love in his pocket, messages that gave powerful solace even as they outlived him. In the interview, Islam also discusses her efforts innovating form in heft. She created the parallel poem form that she uses throughout the collection, with each poem displayed sideways on each page to accommodate two columns of poetry separated by a slim middle column. As readers will discover as they make their way through the collection, the relationship of each set of two columns varies from poem to poem. In addition, Islam has worked with different variations of the sonnet, a timeless and surprisingly versatile poetry structure. Over the years we've been presenting the Poem of the Week, we've regularly marveled at the unique ways the sonnet form has been explored and wielded by Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted poets such as Rachael Boast, Paul Muldoon, Don Paterson, Hoa Nguyen and Mira Rosenthal (translating from the Polish written by Tomasz Rózycki). Islam is assuredly in fine company as she takes the form in directions that bolster her contentions about the power of poetry that's personal, so well illustrated in "poem for your pocket".

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