Anahita Jamali Rad’s debut book of poetry juxtaposes Marxist economics with pop culture lyrics, from FKA Twigs to Sonic Youth, tangling the "You & I" of relationships and social identification. She asks: How is it possible to communicate when the "I" speaks from the margins? Who is the "I" when Motown’s doo-wop and post-punk’s Telecaster jangles shake up the body’s rhythm?
for love and autonomy speaks from a place of discomfort, where internalized pop songs mutate communication and meaning under the guises of individuality and romanticism. Jamali Rad’s "I" is highly textured, musical, and suspect. Her poems bring us together with their rebellious voices – only to push us away into alienation when mimicry falls flat, when the "I" loses its context, when we become oppressed, thingified, dependent, and belligerent.
Jamali Rad deals with the stuff of everyday life: work and sex, friendship and love. Her critical attention to the structure of these social relations creates a poetics of trial and failure, questioning the very "culture" responsible for its making as she forges a way for the possibility of radical resistance in language.
anahita jamali rad
[first few poems]
The “Political” Against the Politics of Attack
By destroying the myth that mutilates us, the organisation to organise autonomously to transcend autonomy transcends autonomy. A certain ethics of a familiar jubilance. We said they said we said they said, at any rate, perhaps, the last is not the least.
Now, study carefully the meaning of “divide. ” You will have no need to study the numerous influences which give the division of labour a definite character.
Monotonous, trivial chores, coupled with sexual passivity. Only separate in words.
We are poor technicians of desire. Exposing the physical mechanism that dominates and exploits us. Historical bodies, or bodies of a history limited by a desire that is not ours, a desire that is unable to mobilise us. A desire that discredits our desires to not be enamoured by the constant generator.
Mutilated by work, multiplying forms and domains for the intervention of political action. We discover we are confronted by obliteration and consumption. A partial list, they say:
1. She wants more. Tyrannised and lacks power. Grounds a political translation of real power, enamoured. But the other is more fundamental. To consume more consumes this greater and greater consumption. Demands another kind of distribution. Of being and organising for the money. Everything is done for the money. The money works hard. Works hard for the money. The only one who does any work around here.
3. She is in “rivalry,” primarily more attractive than, more consumptive than, more pressure than. The times express a protection of the living standards, of reproduction for production. So much so that she lives for men, dresses for men, works for men, is for men.
5. She buries in the home the refuse of the struggle. Herself, the refuse, herself, she refuses. Exists only in the home, is outside invisible. Is outside a dirty window. Is outside into the home.
Will argue, there has been a fundamental misunderstanding. Of women from socialised production. Of heroic mother and happy housewife. Of being surrounded by goods. Makes love at night in the interest of the class. And has internalised the capitalist gaze. Disciplines with a forced smile, disciplines future capitalist subjects. And it’s not the same as making love during the day. Never assumes to make love during the day. A biological presumption. A petty sexual rivalry for a secure mate. It is in the anatomy. A womb from beginning to always, in which the woman is joined by her husband and children. It is precisely at this point that the whole story begins.
Politics of Attack
autonomy transcends autonomy. and jubilance. we said what they said.
And now it weighs down on us. These observations this desire that mutilates our work. Our bodies.
You’ve been in the house too long, she said.
A dirty window into a dirty room. A new kind of social immobility
learnt by bitter experience.
Now this, in the family, is productive.
She is a miserable available working population.
She is a monstrosity.
She is the changing needs of exploitation by capital.
Women buy things
because that’s the only proof that they exist.
Head-shaking liberals and (wageless) cushion of familial antagonism – that private ownership must of necessity develop into the expropriation of the (non)workers, and a (militant) refusal to accept the definition.
Anatomy transcends autonomy transcends anatomy.
Well-fed bodies and bougie signs of a diabolical insurgence have been co-opted. And trepidation has been spilt into by signs of imitation, where the seemingly unlimited supply of free-labour has been defined without hesitation.
I’d much rather kick in the eye.
to consume a bitter
silent ineptitude a body like a factory
but these tears
is unusually as newsworthy as plans to make me blue violence at the hands
of the street corner just about to lose my mind to be construed as
a good kid
as disposable as not much longer will you be of tension
counter- unrest paramilitary or
ain’t s’posed to cry is that bad like a cop
heavy-hand holding pulverised just about to
for your money day-in day
of an entire community will dissolve
losing you for racially-charged
we used to have to hear both sides
in its naked disregard
and petty made poverty
be making your enemy
always intersects with bodies
now there’s nothing left of me
is actually in cold blood
and the memory coded
don’t know why I fight it
trucks carry conclusions
I’ll give you the rest of me
punitive in nature
built into procedure
lest we riot
can’t lose you from my.
if the sky that we look upon
or mulls over air
should crumble and multiple barrel bomb
shell nation could sooner
or the mountains shot fleeing fleeting civilian or blip
to the will of drones
no I won’t shed a
tear gas or shot with rubber
rubble or cease fire is already exhausted. .
love crops up
leaky coalition forces
get over it is cultural apropos
will get you like a case of oil shock
caught in the crossfires under preventive strikes or quarantine
something of an
economic revitalization media shower
and I feel like a
workers under confinement of the village
is something I don’t want to catch my head’s not empty it’s
already lost its status as an interlocutor
and I feel like a strategic
“they can’t un-
turn your camera off, did you?”
only yesterday I said to myself
war by any other means would smell as sweet.
Like a kiss
drop the oil money motives
to be strengthened
detain and monitor with all the tenderness
who shot caught on tape
calmly down the hall
“I put him down”
and it felt like captured on tape, too
and not about race
up the stairs and I knew
or dragging on video
or with a gun
or para-police state
or standard of evidence
or targeted security
or detailed account
or heroic action
or when he kissed me
or grabbed his side arm
or a semi-automatic
or multiple times and fell
or bullet holes through the door
or hitting the floor
or gripped the nation
or pre-empt arrests
or I assure you, Mr. Speaker
fragmenting procedures of carnage and corruption dead set for crossed out knocked down erasure with bullet holes opened fire on semi-pulverised bricks and stone breeds reaction incarcerate assault hemorrhage in bleeding
and I knew he loved me.
state of nature
quench that frantic
nestled in flailing
open up a sock in it
capital wants what you want
is she mystified labour
over-simplify or reciprocal
want you to
structure this mess so lonely to be
capital wants a shoot and kill democracy
quench that disposession
so lonely without
capital wants you to want
open up complicit
dash-cam to make me
dead set on a machine
the words I’m saying will not
can not breathe to be tamed
or smothered in this is
machine is memory
you are what you breathe
cassette or cigarette or
choke hold on hold
music goes on
refusal to speak is
louder than is spoken
caught up bound up buried in
the letters that overt
the colour in
when someone said I gotta know
if it bleeds
get down and
make suture in
silence is sadness is molecules
is torture is waiting
is his sometimes hers
is rage without words
how do we to know this is
upon a meeting
eloquence as though
is this (in negative) a shimmer
slimmer sliver of
when death is called for or
trepidation a future uncalled for
we ask and get nothing singing in a strange land is difficult
and our capitalist excursions are built to this to scale: parasite
to paradise concrete buffet
or plebiscite uptown or down time
or when my conscious
word to chaperone is sped up
or slow down
to too much of this is whither agony? wait to
this heat or beat
“It’s time to enter the language, to discover what lies beyond … Jamali Rad’s poetry is significant. It will require many readings with much discussion to appreciate the value of her contribution to the world of language. ”—Prairie Fire
Wildly smart, dark and funny … thick with theory … Part of what impresses about this collection is the way in which it writes so deeply around and through the complexities of its subject, utilizing prose, short lined lyrics and fragments to write out such a multi-faceted book-length poem on the combined physical, social and political acts of simply ‘being. ’ There is such a deep engagement in these poems, as well as real questions about the autonomous body, social responsibilities and potential actions, and whether or not freedom and/or free will is even possible within the framework of civil society. —rob mclennan
“It’s time to enter the language, to discover what lies beyond. … Jamali Rad’s poetry is significant. It will require many readings with much discussion to appreciate the value of her contribution to the world of language. ”—Prairie Fire
“The poetry is refreshing. Whether stark, disjointed and grammatically voided columns, or impressions of stanza blocks cascading from segment to segment, this poetry is its own. .”–Queen Mob’s Tea House
"Vancouver poet and editor Anahita Jamali Rad’s first trade poetry collection, For Love And Autonomy (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2016), is wildly smart, dark and funny".
“Urgent and incising, these poems follow wide swaths of form and expression through a Marxist and Post-Marxist love and search for equality. They are as intimately woven scenes uttered after the cruelty of human bondage as they are vilifying critiques of the society that does not end and mauls us all. They are in part confessional as we are all confessional, and these poems are also in part movements toward a future where the liberation of poetry binds us together, and not to the oppressor. … The poetry is refreshing. Whether stark, disjointed and grammatically voided columns, or impressions of stanza blocks cascading from segment to segment, this poetry is its own. … for love and autonomy is a collection that will remain relevant for if ‘we’ are ‘we’ and if ‘us’ are ‘us’ its crystalline multiplicity of facets will inspire the reader into consistent action and revision of action. ”
–Queen Mob’s Tea House
“In For Love And Autonomy, [Jamali Rad] performs a sustained critique of the self-evident and self-determining quality of the lyric subject. … [She asks] what love, what autonomy, what poetry is possible under the conditions of late capitalism? … The poems in For Love And Autonomy function, often simultaneously, in two distinct registers: an analytic register, to lay bare their own implication in the field of capitalist production and the extent to which they are implicated in it; and a poetic or ethical register, to feel out what it is possible to say or do, or what should be said or done in response to a world overrun by capitalism. This twofold critique excruciatingly charts the powerlessness of life in this historical moment. … Jamali Rad is unflinching in mapping the extent to which life is subordinated to work. … a harrowing but nevertheless compelling collection. ”
—Debutantes: Reviewing New Voices in Poetry
“The most intriguing section of the collection’s ten is probably “post-harem heavy breathing,” built on fragmented, often unfinished or overlapping lines (“no I won’t / shed a tear / gas or shot / with rubber”). Each poem title is taken from the previous poem, creating a mise en abyme… The shattered prose evokes bombshells or the exploded consciousness of the disenfranchised, as well as the panting of a panicked or aroused character. ”
"Anahita Jamali Rad paces traces turns feminist Marxist utopian poetics politics on their / our ears. "
— J. R. Carpenter