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Wednesday June 24, 2015 in Books


By Rahat Kurd

What earthly use is the love of ornament? Slowing down to look closely at an inherited shawl made by hand, the title poem in Rahat Kurd’s Cosmophilia traces an object of luxury to the traditionally male art of Kashmiri shawl embroidery. The poet works with images from Kashmir, her maternal family’s place of origin, where the ability to make and appreciate beautiful things is both absolutely essential and taken for granted; where increasingly rare levels of artistic mastery are simultaneously prized and trivialized; where the struggle to carry on traditional art forms is strained by awareness of increasing obsolescence, severe political repression, and environmental degradation; a place both celebrated and dismissed as spectacle, as “paradise on earth.”

The question persists, throughout other poems in Cosmophilia, both as self-reflexive creative practice and existential dilemma. On the concrete streets of Vancouver, the anonymity and material ease of cities tug at the poet’s consciousness of frayed traditional ideals, both philosophical and aesthetic. Religious language and rituals considered in the aftermath of a marriage take on complex, subversive, and irreverent layers in a seven-poem sequence. Allusive, playful multilingual imagery inhabits long narrative meditations, free-form couplets, and the traditional ghazal, in elegiac or sharply satirical moods. Nastaliq, a centuries-old form of Persian and Urdu calligraphy, speaks to the author through the smoke-damaged voice of a fading celebrity confessional.

The emotionally powerful collection follows the elaborate, unexpected turns of the poet’s imagination, enlisting intricate details of memory and language and the occasional plain truth – “the hard solitude of the maker.” They intertwine political conflict and family history; they imagine Hamlet reluctantly confronting the partition of India and Pakistan. Cosmophilia translates multiple glittering facets of Muslim culture into, and reflects back from, the immediacy of embodied, urban Canadian experience.

Read “Married to English”, a poem from Cosmophilia.

ISBN 13: 9780889229464 | ISBN 10: 0889229465
6 W x 9.5 H inches | 96 pp pages
$16.95 CAN / $16.95 US
Rights: World
Backlist | Poetry
Paperback Edition


“This very rich world of images & sounds offers something of a gift to English-speaking Canadian readers … it is [a] sense of brokenness, in language, in inheritances, in personal & public politics that haunts the various stories inherent in the longer poems … Some poems develop an imaginative connection with older languages … These poems cover a lot of ground … Cosmophilia is full of moments [that] strike to the heart. It’s a rich & rewarding first collection by a writer I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from.”
– Eclectic Ruckus

About the Contributors

Rahat Kurd

Rahat Kurd is a poet and a prose writer whose work has appeared in The Walrus and Maisonneuve magazines and has been nominated for a variety of literary awards. She is the author of Reading Rights: A Woman’s Guide to the Law in Canada (Quarry Press, 1999).


Rahat Kurd

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