Rafiq Kathwari is a dangerous man. A poet of family history, of geopolitics, he breaks down walls and leaves glittering shards whose beauties make you weep for what is and what could be. This is poetry that expects tears and earns them. From a mother’s heart-wrenching madness to a nation’s lost paradise, the words confront change without flinching. Experience the alchemy by which art draws solace from suffering, resolution from desolation.
Gerald Jonas, poet, longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, book reviewer and art critic for the New York Times.
Here is a threading together of loss: the Kashmir that Rafiq Kathwari spins together, held by poetic legacy so as to stop the essence of Kashmir from slipping through, is not a place but a prayer. Each line of My Mother’s Scribe draws on poetry’s miraculous capacity to reveal what the head finds so hard to hear from the heart.
Justine Hardy, Founder, Healing Minds Foundation that supports Kashmiris who are mentally scarred by the violence and conflict.
At the heart of these poems, there remains an absent center, celebrated in song, wept over in exile: Kashmir, a homeland reduced to a battleground, its people subjected to endemic violence. A profound sadness inhabits these poems, yet so too do a continuity of affection, a lineage of hope. I leave you with the word Mouje: Mother, mother country. Ranjit Hoskote, curator who also translated I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded (2011).
My Mother’s Scribe gut-punched me. The poems are sensorial. You step into them, watching events unfold. The writing is crisp and delectable; Rafiq’s own wit shines through to help navigate the painful burden of the maternal legacy that resides at the heart of these poems. Rafiq captures his mother’s worldly vanities, endearing her to the reader. The apple does not fall far from the tree—this is a Kashmiri apple at that.
Ather Zia is the author of Resisting Disappearance: Military Occupation and Women’s Activism in Kashmir (2019).
My Mother’s Scribe is not some mealy-mouthed requiem for a departed materfamilias but a madcap homage to someone with imagined links to the makers and shakers of her era. Kathwari does for poetry what Marquez, Kharms and Vonnegut did for prose. He lifts his readers into the extraordinary, with his own precious brand of humour and grace.
Gabriel Rosenstock is an Irish poet and a thaumaturgist.