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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review of Uyghurland: The Furthest Exile

from Phoneme Media 
"home becomes an abyss, a perpetual flux . . ."

Spanning two decades of poetic creation, this collection of poems carefully presents Ahmatjan Osman to the Anglophone reader. Fortunately, this bilingual edition from Phoneme Media encourages the reader to take a calm and patient approach guided by a concise and chronological distribution of the author’s poems.

Initially it is hard to scope Ahmatjan Osman residing in Canada, working a blue-collared job– fork lift operator to be precise. Through a veiled and dark imagery,  the exile motif that permeates throughout the book, challenges the reader to discover. He rightly utilizes the juxtaposition of the occidental and oriental to do so. Like an invocation, Osman boldly poeticizes the seemingly mundane and marginal Western life of an outsider, an immigrant or refugee; demonstrating that this predicament cannot cage and execute the emotion, passion, and assertiveness acquired when leaving home– despite assumptions that it may dilute or be catalogued as forgotten.

The tones of desperation, nostalgia, and anxiety bleed from these pages creating a strong and potent memory or even prophecy. However, the tones are more like oil to the water– the oil as poetry and the water the milieu of the author. It is fascinating that his exile to Canada acts as crucible to forge a poetic language that characterizes the Uyghur language, and the place– or places– which it represents and remembers.

The author lacks a refuge story for the front pages, however, his voice blends an alienated world into a not so extraordinary landscape of Canada for the English reader. Osman summons a memory of home that appears to not exist, or results as mystical and oneiric. He speaks a language only known to the transparent and invisible stories that walk amongst the many oblivious denizens of the world that claims to have a home, country and nation. Unfortunately, the Westernized citizens tend to only look Far East if a garish headline story peaks the interest of the entertainment world. Ahmatjan Osman challenges this with his poetry to listen to the depths and of the common cry in all who are exiled. How many more voices could be echoing or joining this cry in the Western world? 

Uyghurland: The Furthest Exile does not depreciate, (what was mentioned as “story”); rather its poems bring a depth to all matters of modern migration that is relevant in today’s world. The rhythm and song of this collection does not clarify this abstruse theme, nor should it.  The ebb and flow of the collection declares that many exiles exist and they will not end until death, continuing on in an eternal resonation.

What happens with the displaced when justice is reached? What is the outcome when the misplaced are placed? In the shadow of these questions, Ahmatjan Osman gives voice to a being and spirit subject to undefined and dark realities that are constantly imposed upon them and become individuals exposed in foreign circumstances yet granted  the oddness place of exile. The injustice culminates in generalizations and other evasive definitions that, unfortunately, are commonplace in mass media and pop literature; from the most conventional to the most venerable.

The poet’s patience in the shadow of this predicament, and his longing to genuinely search for a new language in light of the refugee, the migrant, the foreigner, place, and home; are felt and prominent throughout this book. Furthermore, the rigorous translation of Jeffrey Yang falls nowhere short of what seems to be a noble and never-ending process. These lines and stanzas travelled thorough self-translation by Osman himself, were passed along to Yang, whom the author trusted for his refined poetic knowledge in the English language, and concluded in a fluid exchange of reciprocity and established trust that is rampantly characteristic in the entire collection. The book is a pure and timeless creation between two dedicated individuals that are bound by a sturdy trust. This indispensable relationship between Yang and Osman present the poems to the curious and novice reader with an experience of reading Uyghurland with a clear sense of familiarity; breaking borders and resonating in a liminal space– possibly named exile. This accessibility does not yield any attraction to a seasoned reader of Uyghur literature or poetry. Phoneme Media’s bilingual edition will more than satiate a reader of a more seasoned familiarity.

In a time when so many humans out of dire need due to horrific circumstances are fleeing one physical place for another; “home” becomes an abyss, a perpetual flux, much like the displaced, misplaced, or place itself. Home never disappears as the memory is a powerful faculty, despite suppression and oppression. This book will take you by the hand and guide you to a place that glimpses these notions in a unique and different way. It honestly searches and cares for the vulnerable beings of this world, not turning a blind eye like the systems and institutions tend to do today.  These poems are subversive without surrendering to exclusion or boxing any individuals in. The poetry of Ahmatjan Osman is an invisible hope that guides the reader throughout its lines and words. Never did a reader expect such modern words to create an arresting ancientness coupled with a welcoming to join the exile. Can a homogenous white Caucasian North American really resonate and fall in synch? Can he or she glimpse into the world of exile? Yes. And there is something strong, declarative and inclusive in Ahmatjan Osman’s following line: 


October, 2015.