I immediately jumped towards using the word “raw” when describing Fatimah Asghar’s poetry, but pulled myself back. Visceral yes, ripping the heart from your rib cage at times, and tying your stomach in knots at others, yes. But raw just isn’t the right word for me. They are too intricate… Spontaneous brilliance maybe? I’m probably going to bounce words back and forth over the next few days, asking myself if they are descriptive enough. And that’s fine, because these poems are going to stick around in my memory for a lot longer than that. Poetry that I have trouble describing is the best kind of poetry, because it’s the kind that drags you through the mud, teaches you to look through a new pair of eyes, and takes you to heights you would never really dare to go by yourself. If They Come For Us is one of those kind of poetry collections.
I had actually not heard of Fatimah Asghar before I read a summary of If They Come For Us and thought it sounded like something I would love. I absolutely do love it. I connected with Fatimah Asghar’s words from the first line, and that connection continued to the last poem. Poetry is truth, it is a deep mass that you have taken so long to conceal within, translated into words, images, and left open to interpretation. There is pain, anger, and fear, but also beauty, tenderness, and hope.
Some of these poems are also going to make you uncomfortable, especially if you are white. Uncomfortable in an important, you need to listen and do a ton better kind of way, which is another reason why I totally recommend this collection. Microaggression Bingo is a great example of what I’m trying to convey: a poem in an original format, simple, with a highly effective message. We have ALL committed at least one of these microagrressions in our lives. The poems that explore the lasting effects of the Partition of India and Pakistan made me realize how much I have neglected South Asia in my more recent readings, and how I need to learn more, read more. And then the poems on growing up, being an immigrant, losing parents, struggling with body, with changes, with being different... They are so real, so powerful, many so very relatable to me. Reading If They Come For Us sometimes felt like I was given a small fuzzy window into someone’s soul for a second, and then was yanked back into myself, wondering what had just happened.
I have totally fallen in love with Fatimah Asghar’s work, and will be buying myself a hard copy of this to read again, and probably again.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this wonderful collection of poems!!