An extraordinary debut set in Toronto, unfurling against the backdrop of an ancient Persian love story.
The story of Layla and Majnun, made immortal by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi in the 12th century, has been retold thousands of times, in thousands of different ways, throughout literature. Against the backdrop of this story, to the sound-track of modern hip-hop, and amid the struggle of an immigrant family to instill an old faith under new conditions, Irfan Ali's Accretion hurtles towards an unsustainable, "greater madness. " Majnun, one of the foundational literary characters who haunt Accretion, is also an Arabic epithet for "possessed. " In this tradition, Ali has written a book from the places where the self is no longer the self; places where, in order not to shut down forever, the debris must be cleared, and the soul must inch towards love and hope, "on memory's dusty beams. "
Accretion is written in a contemporary lyricism that honours ancient poetic traditions. It is a familiar story, imbued with a particularity and honesty that only Irfan Ali could bring to the table.
"Irfan Ali delves fearlessly into the beauty and cruelty of a utilitarian city and the chasms between people. The struggle between head and heart binds these poems. In fact, Accretion might be considered a roadmap for finding love in everything--ourselves, family, soul mates, urban life, and faith. " --Emily Pohl-Weary, author of Ghost Sick
Irfan Ali is a poet, essayist, writer, and educator. His short poetry collection, "Who I Think About When I Think About You" was shortlisted for the 2015 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. Accretion is his first full-length work. Irfan was born, raised, and still lives in Toronto.
to a chorus of
old men's cracking knees and backs
as we straightened up out of sajdah
at Friday prayer,
your face unmistakable
in the mosaic patterns
on the walls of the masjid.
Day by day, I stayed there gazing,
longing once again
for the sharp lines of your eyes and mouth.
The imam grinned proudly
mistaking my obsession for piety.
Fasted, or maybe just forgot to eat
until like you, I became
a shadow of lines and angles.
I began to inch my way towards you
on memory's dusty beams.
An insignificant thing
lacks the needed weight to attract,
it will barely inspire a reaction.
An insignificant thing
will always try to accrete,
even if hate is the only available mass.
Let it build
until you collapse alone
beneath your own weight.
Then for a moment
you will become a fire on the horizon,
and impossible to ignore.