Read This, Then That: Debut Poetry

Grief, displacement, and survival are central themes in the works of these two debut poetry collections: Mirabel’s The Vanishing Act (& the Miracle After) (Guernica Editions) and Laila Malik’s archipelago (Book*hug Press) wade through loss and longing with completely unique expression. 


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Read this: The Vanishing Act (& the Miracle After) by Mirabel (Guernica Editions)

Then that: archipelago by Laila Malik (Book*hug Press)

The Vanishing Act (& the Miracle After) is told in two halves; in the first, the speaker meditates on the relentless challenges of being a woman, a person of colour, and an abuse survivor in a variety of reactions that are so relatable in the experience of grief: motionlessness, helplessness, and searing pain. Moving away from the internal space, the second half enters an interrogation on the external world in, as the title suggests, a miraculous way as the speaker talks to objects and animals about her place in life.

archipelago’s speaker mournfully confronts the location of home, showing the reader not only a geographical blurring of where home is, but also the disintegration of any remaining physical homeland through early-stage climate catastrophe. Malik’s inventive verses that both fragment, melt, and challenge conventional language echo the very same severed, collapsed, and difficult physical and psychological landscapes she is referring to.

In their final pages, the works depart in tone yet face two forms of acceptance: for Mirabel there’s lightness and a sense of having crested a steep hill to find a refreshing spring on the other side, but for Malik there’s a darker, but practical, embrace of the impossibility of reconciliation that ends the collection in a low hum of stillness over her oceans of hindrance.

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Many thanks to Lindsey King for providing this comparison. For more Read This, Then That, click here.