But unlike her early volumes which have focused on migration and identity, this volume makes a major shift in location. This collection is located in New York -- a New York transformed by the events of September 11, 2001. Alexander writes :
a torrent of sentences
Syllables of flame stitch the rubble
An eye, a lip, a cut hand blooms
Sweet and bitter smoke stains the sky
Alexander looks at New York through personal experiences; two of her poems focus on her children and trace the change in the city through their life. In "School Yard" which she dedicates to her son, she writes of an idyllic childhood with stick ball by the river and the loss of that innocent New York where
Now the walls are on fire.
When you call I tell you the fields
by the river are sprinkled with ash
She also looks at New York through another poet's eyes, and writes a sequence of poems called "Listening to Lorca" in which she connects herself to Lorca's poetry on New York, a city he had visited 50 years before Alexander moved there. In her notes to this sequence, Alexander writes that Lorca's Poet in New York allowed her to "reattach" herself to place through "some" of his words. Her poems in the sequence mourn the loss of a poet's New York and she wonders:
Why stay on this island?
See how it's ringed by water and flame?
You who have never seen Granada --
tell me what is the color of home?
("Color of Home" 19).
This collection is also more than about New York, it is a meditation on violence on a global scale, especially violence motivated by religious intolerance. She writes about the violence of Partition, and she writes about Godhra and and Naroda Patiya. In this poem, 9/11 is not just about New York and the United States but an inquiry into violence and nationalism on a global scale. Her poems evoke Kabir and Tagore and the Iranian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad as she ponders the violence, and she addresses a sequence to Gandhi and wonders about ahimsa. In "Slow Dancing" she writes:
Dear Mr. GandhiThis collection which meditates on violence and loss and transformation of emotion through art is aptly titled Raw Silk . In the title poem of the collection, she evokes her grandmother's attempts at raising silk worms in Kerala and the color of mulberry juice which stains the body red and the color of raw silk symbolize both the violence and the beauty that are central themes in this collection. Alexander asks:
Please say something
About the carnage in your home state
What has happened to ahimsa?
Is it just for the bird and the bees?
Should I cast it all awayIf Alexander's poetry is about memory, then this collection is both a memorial to those who die in violence as it is a chronicling of that violence so that we may never repeat it again.
be the girl who can't remember?
Could I have uttered what I didn't know? when silk comes out of the silkworm's hole
it is the color of colostrum.
Book Description: From her cross-cultural perspective, Alexander writes with moving intensity of post-September 11 events as she evokes violence and civil strife, love, despair, and a hard-won hope. This autobiographical cycle of poems reflects the surrealism of such a life, and is shot through with the frissons of pleasure and pain, of beauty and tension, that mark a truly global identity.
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