An Alphabet of Poets – A is for Ali


A is for Ali  – April 1

To celebrate National Poetry Month I will feature a new poet for each day of April.  I will be at my abecedarian best and go through the alphabet from a to z, followed by 4 random choices!

The River Cloud

On paper, on the sky, on the river’s mad meniscus
I’ve drawn a blank
Remaindered against the banks, pressed there by the current
The river dispersing into the light gray
Cloud me down by the river edged with willow
The smoke of the river cloud canticles
A thought river between shores leads out and out
River draw all this through me
What’s hidden beneath the hull of the boat
Or in the cloud of the river
Future river feeding
The charts are no good
The far shore disappears
Give it to me now to live
In the river’s unmaking epoch
Locking itself into the oars
Onto the boat my cloud
Boat my body
Body my oar
Oar and fog
Fog oar rowing
Cloud oar rowing

Kasim Ali from The Far Mosque, Alice James Books, 2005

At swim with Kasim Ali. This poem drenches me with its flowing, its wetness. Firm borders waver and come apart, a mystical oneness overtakes the poem, the speaker. Not surprising for a poet who work has been described as exploring the intersection of faith and daily life.

Ali was born in 1971 in the U.K.His parents, from South India, raised him as a Muslim there and in the U.S.and Canada. On the surface, he is an obvious outsider, both as a Muslim and gay man, yet his poems speak a universal mystical language.  The togetherness spoken by the deepest spiritual writing.

In his 2011 book, Fasting for Ramadan, published by Tupelo Press he locates his spiritual perspective clearly:

Does the fast become a way to separate oneself, uncouple from the world-as-it-is?

Or can you use the opportunity to come closer to others?

And again in his 2008 volume, The Fortieth Day:

Morning Prayer

The work of dark
a tremulous sound

Mount Beacon season to season
changes or is changed

what’s in us that reaches
to know what’s after

should I draw the spirit
as a lantern or a cup?


More biographical information from his website


In addition to co-editing On the Poetry of Jean Valentine (University of Michigan Press, 2012), he is a contributing editor for AWP Writers Chronicle and associate editor of the literary magazine FIELD and founding editor of the small press Nightboat Books. He is an associate professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature atOberlinCollege and teaches in the Masters of Fine Arts program of theUniversity of Southern  Maine.


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