Solmaz Sharif's astonishing first book, "Look," asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable loss of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards and sequences, Sharif assembles her family's and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare. Those repercussions echo into the present day, in the grief for those killed in America's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the discrimination endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter.
At the same time, these poems point to the ways violence is conducted against our language. Throughout this collection are words and phrases lifted from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; in their seamless inclusion, Sharif exposes the devastating euphemisms deployed to sterilize the language, control its effects, and sway our collective resolve. But Sharif refuses to accept this terminology as given, and instead turns it back on its perpetrators. "Let it matter what we call a thing," she writes. "Let me look at you."
• Finalist for the 2017 PEN Open Book Award
• Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award
Praise for this book
“(An) excellent debut collection ... In Sharif's rendering, 'Look' is at once a command to see and to grieve the people these words describe ― and also a means of implicating the reader in the violence delivered upon these people ... An artful lexicographer, Sharif shows us that the diameter of a word is often as devastating as the diameter of a bomb.”
“Remarkable ... By turns fierce and tender, the poems are a searing response to American intervention.”