by LINZEY CORRIDON
ONTARIO REVIEWS CALIFORNIA
A Brief History of Infidels
HOW BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE ARE
a pothi by AYAZ PIRANI
[Guelph: Gordon Hill Press, 2022, $20.00]
“All my ancestors are stone-faced” responds the speaker to the question Where are you from?, the title of one of the entries in Ayaz Pirani’s third work of poetry. Stone-faced, rigid, and curiously intimate is the air one encounters walking alongside the figure of Kabir, one of several visceral invocations in Pirani’s work. Kabir is a key concept and fleshy device driving home to readers just how complex the “shivering histories” of the multi-generational subject remains in Pirani’s pothi.
“I’m not going to lie down
wherever I am put”
And so, readers go on a journey across four defining moments in Pirani’s work. We learn of a grandmother whose memory holds “the pages of [her] people’s pothi” and a grandfather who “had the face of a dictionary”. Representations of the written word are interlocked with the speaker’s genealogical histories. Language and history are the people, spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten. Like the surface of stone, the cover of a book cannot begin to manifest the intricate contents sealed away beneath the surface’s covering. Pirani’s journey through ancestry, like texts and language, are sometimes abridged. In the seemingly shortened lives represented on the page there remains intrigue and an expanse of literal and mythical worlds brought to light by the speaker.
“They also know me
Using the limited paints available to the speaker, Pirani’s work depicts vividly for readers haunting images of a people plastered thin across multiple geopolitical sites. These paints constitute love, loss, doubt, and nature. If “no-one breaks up with doubt”, then readers learn of a genealogical history which persists not because of doubt, but rather despite the all-encompassing presence and pressures of doubt. People are made beautiful despite the inter-generational, cross-cultural chains meant to stunt their inherent beauty. This beauty is observable to anyone who might only take a moment to listen, to look outside themselves and towards the humans around them.
Born and raised on the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Linzey Corridon is a recent arrival to Hamilton after having lived several years in Montréal, Québec. He is a poet, activist, a Vanier Scholar and PhD student in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. Linzey’s writings and criticisms can be found in The Puritan, Montreal Writes, Insight Journal, House Anthology and Emotional Magazine, and also in forthcoming publications such as Wasafiri and SX Salon. In 2022 he was nominated for Best New Poets.
His doctoral research centres queer Caribbean and diaspora people and writings as sites of endemic and unexplored formations insexuality, community and personhood. Currently a fellow at the Lewis and Ruth Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship, he is developing an interactive map database resource of queer Caribbean and diaspora writings from the past 120 years.