Anis Shivani is a poet, fiction writer, and critic residing in Houston, Texas. His debut poetry collection, My Tranquil War and Other Poems (New York Quarterly Books, September 2012), has been met with favourable reviews from many esteemed poets and critics across the American literary landscape.
Shivani is nothing more than candid in his assessment of a turbulent last decade, as he successfully undresses a political and cultural climate gone askew. His style of poetry has rightfully been compared to a modern day Robinson Jeffers, had he lived in an era of cable TV and twenty-four-hour news programming. Shivani possesses a willingness to play the sharp tongued and provocative commentator, leaning toward the dark and angry side, but.also filtering in a plethora of humour to balance the human condition.
My Tranquil War tackles head-on the question: What is the poet's special responsibility when terror becomes a general condition of dread, and even beauty and truth assume grotesque masks?
Most of the poems in My Tranquil War have appeared in many leading literary journals including, American Literary Review, Boston Review, The Fiddlehead, Fulcrum, Harvard Review, Los Angeles Review, Prism International, The New York Quarterly, The Threepenny Review, and many more. Shivani won a 2012 Pushcart Prize, and his other books are Anatolia and Other Stories (2009), which was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor award; Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies (2011); and The Fifth Lash and Other Stories (forthcoming, 2012). He has finished a novel, Karachi Raj, and is writing another.
John Ashbery's Discovered Childhood
The police were here, and they were searching for a cop car.
They've seen, in silent breakfast trays, evidence of a crime,
sunless and discreet, whose trail leads back to a hungry Christ.
Fine, I tell them, scrape the mountainside brush for penny-
clues; fine, go ahead with your stethoscopic nose to grimace
verbal flexion into your trademark tone deafness. The police
tore down the wayward weather-favored tufts of filament-struck
clouds. They also hit my bamboozling grandmother of the crosswords
with high-water political dogma: whatever passes for law
is the law, etc. Afterwards, I had hot tea in the dark library.
My mind jumped from book to book of the Berlin thirties,
when disgust with self was always at hand, viz. Grosz
and Isherwood. Why do we not have such talented mockers
today? We only have placentas rocked with booze,
waitresses in thin religious headdresses when they're off work,
sportsmen beating up the thick cabin walls in Minnesota
woods to make then echo, echo, echo, with the denouement
the common man has figured out. I have run pretty low,
and it shows on my ringless fingers, taut like tiger claws.
I Watched Executions Last Night with My Sister
The football field, where I used to cheer as a twelve-year-old,
had been prepared to accept the deaths of forty murderous men,
whose souls we witnessed exiting with the ease of needles
running out of thread. It was like kicking
in the style of Pele and getting only the goal post
on your bloody shin, and falling twisted and embarrassed to the ground,
your playmates laughing over your sundered body, screaming:
he is just like his sister, Daud pees sitting down like his sister.
Orwell Shooting the Elephant
When he took aim it was with a quake
in his imperial stomach: such queasiness
works best with sub-inspectors, fake
little authoritarians - almost the distress
of a subaltern dominated by a pucca
sahib is evident in Eric's pale face,
waylaid by yellow eyes on the Mecca
whose road vanished too close to its place
of origin. But what he thinks of as the night
of empire is only its first dawn, its loop
over its own carcass to bid an end to fright
among lowly sub-inspectors who stoop
so low as to register the yellow eyes
noting their every action: as if natives
had the same emotions as Shakespeare's spies,
Wordsworth's swains, as if he who lives
by power raw and naked must pay a price
above and beyond the silt morning ache
when a millennium's work is dice
rolled on whim, icing on the cake.