With Customs, Solmaz Sharif offers a series of poetic refusals, weighing nuanced questions about what it means to belong to a place. In the face of hard borders these poems seek a reckoning with the structures, in society, in language itself, by which these limits act on us.
Sharif examines what it means to exist in the nowhere of the arrivals terminal; to navigate a continual series of checkpoints, officers, searches, and questionings that can become a relentless challenge; a mutating shibboleth. Through the poet's adept balancing of tonal and formal elements, these poems interrogate the 'customs' of the nation-state, of the English language, of the paces these systems put us through. But this work is not enjoined to a hopeless quest.
Instead, the propulsive force that informs each line, each white space, and punctuation mark, is a powerfully galvanizing and healing force. Customs reminds us of the generative possibilities of restlessness, of seeking in each poem to refresh what it is a poem can be and do.