Poet Solmaz Sharif considered ‘literary citizenship’ at reading event

Award-winning poet Solmaz Sharif read from her books of poetry “Look” and “Customs” Thursday, Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. in the Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium in Klarman Hall. The event was part of the in the Fall 2022 Barbara & David Zalaznick Reading Series for the Creative Writing Program in the Department of Literatures in English in the College of Arts & Sciences (A&S).

Sharif was born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, a background that shaped her work as a poet. She described her poetry “first as ‘political’ then as ‘documentary,’” in an essay in the Kenyon Review. Her poetry collections address displacement and the American immigration system.

She said in a 2022 interview for BOMB magazine: “What a sham citizenship is. I was born in Turkey and brought here when I was an infant, but I was still beyond the bureaucratic blunder that would allow me to be a natural born citizen.

“Literary citizenship,” she added, “is tied to the exchange of these resources and affects what is produced. This citizenship asks of us allegiances and complicities and silences, dinners at tables that we promised to never sit at.”

Sharif’s collection “Look” was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has been recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lannan Foundation, and Stanford University. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, the New York Times. She is an assistant professor in creative writing at Arizona State University where she is inaugurating a Poetry for the People program.

The Sept. 29 reading was free and open to the public. Attendees were able to purchase copies of “Look” and “Customs” at the book signing following the reading courtesy of Buffalo Street Books.   Barbara and David Zalaznick’s generous endowment makes it possible for the Creative Writing Program to invite several writers, who range from debut poets and novelists to nationally and internationally renowned writers, to campus each semester.

Masks are encouraged but not required on the Cornell campus,. For the latest university public health guidelines visit covid.cornell.edu.

To learn more, visit english.cornell.edu/zalaznick, email englishevents@cornell.edu or call (607) 254-7157.

Amanda Brockner is MFA Graduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Literatures in English.

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Solmaz Sharif
Solmaz Sharif