by Lyn Lifshin
Paperback 148 pages, $17.00 (list)
(January 20, 2014)
Available from Amazon and
Poetic Matrix Press
Malala Yousafzai is a teenager from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Taliban banned girls from attending school. Known for her education and women’s rights activism, Malala, then fifteen, was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban gunman while returning home on a school bus on October 9, 2012. She survived. She has written an autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. In 2013, at sixteen, she became the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
It would be difficult to imagine that any reader, or student, or involved citizen of the earth could be unaware of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year old Pakistani girl shot in the head and neck by a Taliban extremist and left for dead for the crime of advocating education for women. The girl has, after all, become a hero, a symbol, even a voice for all that champion knowledge over darkness.
Malala has been celebrated in documentary, appeared on the cover of Time magazine, and awarded the National Peace Award by the Pakistani government. If, however, as Shelley proclaimed, “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” her story has always cried out for a poet.
What an answer she’s received! Lyn Lifshin’s Malala weaves dream and reality, and the worlds of the Pakistani girl and the poet, into a testament to bravery and a ringing condemnation of the forces of hatred everywhere they’re found. It is a tribute to this new and inspiring work by perhaps the most widely published of American poets that one leaves its pages feeling, as one should, that Malala is an irresistible force while the Taliban, for all the terror they inspire, are remembered as essentially small, even pathetic. The reader will leave this work energized and transformed, or, as Lifshin describes Malala herself:
“…darting all over
like a hummingbird
that can’t get enough
of what it’s after.”
Bruce Woods is a poet, editor, and novelist. His novel Royal Blood has recently been announced by Knox Robinson Press, London.
Throughout Lyn Lifshin's illustrious career as a poet, she has always been a strong advocate for her gender, so it is not a stretch to imagine how the plight of a remarkable Pakistani child, shot by the Taliban in 2012 for speaking out about the right of girls to be educated in her country, has aroused her ire and her fire. For many in the U.S., Malala's story was merely a blip on the TV news, but with her trademark eye for vivid particulars, and genuine empathy, Lifshin gives us images that cannot (and should not) be ignored. When Lifshin hones in on the pink dress Malala was wearing on the day she got shot, she is reminding us of the world's whole history of violence, from the pink dress of Jackie Kennedy on the day her husband was fatally shot in the head, to the pink ribbons that have now become a symbol of women's endurance. Your own passions will be stirred by these urgent poems about a brave young woman, finely crafted by one of our bravest poets - and we say "Brava" to both!
— Cindy Hochman, Poet, proofreader, book reviewer, editor-in-chief of First Literary Review-East and author of The Carcinogenic Bride.
Lyn Lifshin, in her newest book Malala, continues to prove that no one else can write such explosive and moving poems. I loved the poems about Malala's dreams, feelings, fears, not only moving but so very informative. She's a major force for young girls and women, will be a role model in Pakistan and internationally. This is a major book of hers obviously. She continues to reign as Queen of the Small Press poets. Lyn Lifshin's newest book (and perhaps her most important book of her illustrious career) Malala should be in the running for every poetry prize of 2014. Lifshin is at the height of her powers in this amazing book that should be in every library, nationally and internationally.
— Laura Boss, Editor: Lips Author: Flashlight (Guernica Editions)
I was so moved by these pieces. Lyn Lifshin's Malala is a compelling work; her writing touches and stings the reader. This book shows that Ms. Lifshin's beautiful poetics can illuminate even the most dark and awful realities, bringing them home in words that make us all understand. Malala is an important work in both literary and social contexts."
—Ted E. F. Roberts, Love Etc. Poetry & Haiku, currently working on Poems: New and Used.
When Malala Yousafzai slipped her pink dress over her dark
curls that October 9th morning in 2012, neither she, nor anyone
who knew her, could have imagined how radically changed and
different her life would be from that afternoon on. It would be a
long time, if ever, before she could slip back into her room and the
bed she had called her own in the Swat district of Pakistan’s
northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
RUSHING TO THE METRO ALREADY A LITTLE LATE ON MY WAY TO BALLET I NEARLY SKID ON ACORNS, CATCH MYSELF
I think of Malala, maybe rushing, never
wanting to think her name means "grief
stricken," as I've written a poem about
becoming what you’re called. Maybe
she was humming a song she heard once
on TV before the Taliban made it a crime.
Or she was watching leaves drift from the bus
or giggling with girl friends. Maybe
she was thinking of being a doctor and
coming back to treat young children
in her region, her swat. Or maybe she
was hoping to see a certain boy with
licorice eyes and a smile who always
made her giggle. No longer able to wear
school uniforms, told to wear plain
clothes, Malala wrote in her blog,
"Instead, I decided to wear my favorite
pink dress." Maybe the last beautiful
thing she saw as the bullet entered her
mahogany curls until later she woke
up in the hospital's cone of light
MALALA'S THIRD DREAM OF MILITARY HELICOPTERS
no longer throwing toffee
from the sky but filling
the air with darkness.
She could hear artillery
fire. By morning only
half the girls kept coming
to school. On her way
home she heard a man
say "I will kill you."
It sounded like a
requiem . Withered
leaves fell thru
her hair as if she was
still dreaming. Dark
birds of her dreams
in flame on to hill sides
that once looked as if
been dipped in beauty
SHE SAID SHE COULDN'T SEE TO WALK EASILY
in her long gray drab
berka. Some times it
was hot. It was as if
she wanted to bring
color, not the
source of the storm,
wanted to walk
into life like it
was her house. She
wanted to wear pink
it was her favorite
color. There are songs
to sing. She wants
to feel as if each day
could unravel new
She wants the school
to receive her in quiet
calmness the way the
opens to receive
a flock of swans
BEFORE THE TALIBAN CLOSED DOWN HER SCHOOL IN THE SWAT FAMLLY
not able to
night birds. If
acid thrown in their face.
Then waking up in
a house she
Once more Lyn LIfshin, the American queen of the small press scene for the last forty years, makes her voice heard, this time in support of Malala Yousafzai, an innocent Pakistani school girl who in 2008 at a press conference in Peshawar asked why the Taliban was taking away her right to basic education.
What religion or ideology can justify the attempt to murder a l5 year old girl who speaks out for education? This new book by Lyn Lifshin is both brave and innovative. The poet somehow teleports herself to Pakistan and reaches across the oceans to enter the mind of l5 year old Malaya. The reader sees the moment as Malaya does. The poems are a breath of fresh air in a world that is filled with poison. Malaya’s voice is the voice of hope and innocence.
—Toni Ortner has 13 books and has been published in over 100 literary magazines.
These are some of the most powerful and passionate poems ever to be taken to paper. Lifshin unearths mounds of history and builds it back up aside the heroic actions of one young woman. A woman who should be the subject of poem after poem, day after day!
Lifshin may have created her most astounding work yet. She opened a door into history and when you peek in, it falls all over.
Lifshin’s look inside Pakistan is unique, as it brings beauty to a hard history; it brings comfort to cruelty.
—Candace Chouinard poet, editor
With the fervor and passion that only a true poet can wield, Lyn Lifshin writes about Malala Yousafzai’s near-tragedy as the “Dark birds of her dreams plung- ing/in flame onto hillsides/that once looked as if they’d been dipped in beauty” in a paean to hope, innocence, and the rights of all females everywhere. In this book Lifshin becomes the essence of Malala, the great longing for a future that each person builds with their own characterizing spirit. She, along side Malala, cries out for the justice that should allow all of us to individualize and love life so much that “each day could unravel new mysteries.”
— Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, is a poet, artist, journalist, critic and TV producer. Read the full review