Rafiq Kathwari is a dangerous man. A poet of family history, a poet of geopolitics, he breaks down walls in his writing and leaves glittering shards whose beauties make you weep for what is and what could be. This is poetry that expects tears and earns them.
From a mother’s heart-wrenching madness to a nation’s lost paradise, the words confront change without flinching. Don’t read this book if you are looking for anodyne reassurance. But if you want to experience the alchemy by which art draws solace from suffering, resolution from desolation, take this journey with a poet whose life has encompassed so many of our time’s grim dichotomies: ethnic, religious, ideological.
Disclosure: my objectivity about Rafiq’s work is far from pure. We have known each other for some thirty years: first as fellow-toilers in writing workshops, taking apart each other’s poems and suggesting “improvements” that sometimes actually made them better, then as friends and mutual admirers.
But friendship should be no bar to critical judgment. No one writes quite like Rafiq Kathwari. A master of his craft, he brings a perspective to life in the 21st century (from Kashmir to New Rochelle, from New York City to Ireland and back) that enriches our public discourse. I am grateful for our friendship; you will count yourself fortunate to encounter his unique voice in this illuminating collection of poems.
Gerald Jonas was a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine for thirty years, and a longtime contributor to the New York Times, writing about the sciences and the arts, and reviewing over 1000 books of science fiction. He is the author of six books of nonfiction, and a volume of poetry.