Visiting Poets

Dilruba Ahmed

Dilruba Ahmed

American-born Bangladeshi Dilruba Ahmed‘s impressive debut book of poems, Dhaka Dust, won the 2010 Bakeless Literary Prize awarded by the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. It was selected by Arthur Sze, who praised its “rich and luminous weave” of cultural location and perspective. Sensuous language, indelible images, glimpses of transcendence—all these are put to brilliant use in poems of memory, motherhood, the globalized world, and the intimate struggle to feel at home in it.

Quoting Henry James, Eleanor Wilner writes, “‘It’s a complex fate, being an American,’ and Ahmed’s poems bear that out, in her intricate, cadenced chronicle of that complexity. The tensile strength of her sensuous lines, spun of the finest delicacy of perception and feeling, reach across cultures, spanning the distances.” These poems “spin like compass needles crowded around magnetic fields,” notes Vijay Seshadri, “and they’d probably seem as exotic to a citizen or Dhaka as they would to a citizen of Duluth.”

Ahmed’s work has appeared in Cream City ReviewNew England ReviewNew Orleans ReviewDrunken Boat, and The Normal School, and is included in Indivisible: Contemporary South Asian American Poetry. A writer, editor, and educator with roots in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Bangladesh, Ahmed holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA from Warren Wilson College.

Select Poems

… Relinquish
your name, your story,
your life. Then sink

to the root of it, anchor
yourself to one water-
darkened rock. Surrender

to sound. Let sunlight
become a memory,
barely recognized or felt.

-excerpt of “Evening in Mendocino”
from DHAKA DUST (Graywolf Press, 2009)

City, I’ve tried to love your gray-veined streets
that wind through grayer hills, bits of driftwood
stagnant downstream, steel bridges, your concrete.
I’ve paced hollows, your twisting neighborhoods:
trestles tucked away near mills, now quiet,
plastic bags that sprout like strange white flowers,
an orange haze not quite the sun. Cardboard
houses crushed into hills, slow heat, hours

pressing into me. No town of my own,
just this confluence of leaden waters—
Monongahela: slate. Allegheny: bruise.
Bridges lit up in bright spokes of moonstone
seem to point home, but among splinters,
where in each river does the water move?

From DHAKA DUST (Graywolf Press, 2009)

See our birthmarks

splattered across backs or
calve: the map of another
country. Inkblots marking us

desirous of everything
we can see or touch – persimmons
bursting in alleys, crushed,

slick with their own juices.
Each merchant’s pyramid of
cinnamon, lips laced with sweet

dust – will this craving
or sustain us?

-excerpt, “Map of Another Country”,
from DHAKA DUST (Graywolf Press, 2009)

Poetry Center Reading

Spring 2012