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Rafiq Kathwari brings to life an entire age, with its conflicts, discords, and …

My Mother’s Scribe is a very unusual set of tales and poems, actually teasing lures of tales cast as poems, personal and autobiographical, most constructed from words, feelings, experiences and letters of the poet’s mother that collapse times and locations, haunted by the baleful specter of a husband who has rendered her useless and unwanted in the household by contracting a second marriage. In this microcosm of his evocation, Rafiq Kathwari brings to life an entire age, with its conflicts, discords, and betrayals before our eyes, so that the mother’s travails mirror, uneasily, unsettlingly, his homeland Kashmir’s, the Indian Subcontinent’s Partition by the British, even the situation in Palestine. A heartrending vigil, ‘I am a witness,’ writes Rafiq, ‘In every well in Baghdad/a rafik [a friend] is weeping . . .’ that invites reflection as much on the ills of colonialism, militarism, and religious fanaticism as on the oppressions of patriarchy, on sexual abuse, the molestation of female children in the home. A rare, exacting, illuminating collection that presents the human condition with enviable artistic economy and cleanses the heart and mind of all dross as it does so.

Waqas Khwaja

Waqas Khwaja is the Ellen Douglass Leyburn Professor of English, Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Georgia. His most recent book of poems is Hold Your Breath (The Onslaught Press, UK, 2017).


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