Tarfia Faizullah


TARFIA FAIZULLAH is the author of two poetry collections, REGISTERS OF ILLUMINATED VILLAGES (Graywolf, 2018) and SEAM (SIU, 2014). Tarfia’s writing appears widely in the U.S. and abroad in the Daily Star, Hindu Business Line, BuzzFeed, PBS News Hour, Huffington Post, Poetry Magazine, Ms. Magazine, the Academy of American Poets, Oxford American, the New Republic, the Nation, Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket, 2019), and has been displayed at the Smithsonian, the Rubin Museum of Art, and elsewhere. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, three Pushcart prizes, and other honors, Tarfia presents work at institutions and organizations worldwide, and has been featured at the the Liberation War Museum of Bangladesh, the Library of Congress, the Fulbright Conference, the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, the Radcliffe Seminars, and elsewhere. Tarfia’s writing is translated into Bengali, Persian, Chinese, and Tamil, and is part of the theater production Birangona: Women of War. Tarfia’s collaborations include photographers, producers, composers, filmmakers, musicians, and visual artists, resulting in several interdisciplinary projects, including an EP, Eat More Mango. In 2016, Tarfia was recognized by Harvard Law School as one of 50 Women Inspiring Change, and is a 2019 USA Artists Fellow. Born in Brooklyn, NY to Bangladeshi immigrants and raised in Texas, Tarfia currently lives in Dallas. Source

Yr Not Exotic, But Once Ya Wanted to Be

Whenever folks discuss finding themselves,

ya get kinda giggly. Maybe b/c ya found

yrself considering yr Armenian love

who preferred ya in both corset and bindi,

and it was for her ya begrudgingly waxed

yr jungle-scabbard    ...    Ya find yrself in the fret

of reclamation via musks all motherland-misty

(coconut milk, marine accord, mimosa tree). Last

weekend, ya found yrself in leggings to argue

again with yr Dominican love over the tender

texture of Texas tamales. Ya not-so-secretly want

to find yrself in a garden kissing a risk-

taking party until ya feel as good as a half-price

smoothie. Somehow, identity never finds ya

kohl-eyed in magenta blooms photographed

by a mixed-race admirer on a humid evening,

mostly b/c yr too busy galaxy-gazing

to be anyone’s so-fair-and-lovely. Was that

a touch of pride or self-pity? Probably. But ya

just can’t deal with another stranger’s surprise

at yr love of both tequila and mango lassis.

Does yr Guyanese love truly expect ya to replace

the chicken & fish in yr diet with mushrooms

that arbitrarily? You’re so black, yr told pretty

frequently. Ya don’t know what to make of it:

humanity. Ever find yrself advised by

Bangladeshi Brooklynites? Like they know

yr bae Poetry! Loves, let’s stop projecting

insecurities. But maybe it’s like when ya tried

to be cheerful after a famous poet called ya Debbie

Downer for mentioning the hurricanes in yr other

sovereignty? Never don’t find yrself coring

what music can be cleaved from a dull language

into an anomalous nationality. A personal theory:

we all behave oddly around [   ]. Now here

Poetry comes to say she wants to be an ode to what is

muddy. OK, baby. Here’s to dank difficult borders,

gardens of ingrown perennials, fractured fins,

the wings of inner menageries. Here’s to our own

empires of dirt — no one’s pruned-perfumed colonies

of exotic beauty. This is not a poem! Or is it

an efficient exercise in surviving hysteria?





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:





Intersectionality & Culture

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered