Winner of the 2018 Rick Campbell Chapbook Award for What I know of the Mountains, Hajjar Baban is the author of Relative to Blood (Penmanship Books, 2018). A Pakistan-born Afghan Kurdish poet, she is currently studying Creative Writing, Arabic, and Persian at the University of Wisconsin - Madison through the First Wave Scholarship Program. She served as the 2017 Detroit Youth Poet Laureate and has work appearing in The Offing, New Delta Review, Foundry, and Asian American Writers’ Workshop, among others. She is a recent Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and Pushcart nominee. She spends most of her time avoiding running from herself.
“I know nothing/ of memory & I’m new,” Hajjar Baban writes, but 20 year old Baban is not the new arrival— we are. In What I Know of the Mountains, she invites us to the edges of the unanswerable: what is my name, where is my god, who am I from, why am I safe, how do I read, what allegiance, what role, what haunts, why war, what is in the spaces where language cannot follow? In poems as studied in form as they are inventive, “parts rearrange themselves, the new wind echoing” from Michigan to Kurdistan and back. Unknown reader, Baban’s poems offer you place so long as you enter into a pact! It’s a pact about glitches in narrative, nation, family and god, through which love and light can bleed. These poems are tender strongholds. They remind me that I live on an entire planet, of which I know so little and to which I owe so much.
-Oliver Baez Bendorf, author of Advantages of Being Evergreen
Some silences are loud. Sometimes hesitations are less about fear, than the evidence of wisdom hard won. Reading Hajjar Baban’s What I Know of the Mountains, one learns to weigh the unspoken, to measure how absences, erasures, circled space gesture toward what seems just beyond reach: love, land, nation, language, family. As if searching shadows or the face of God, these poems are both acts of faith and defiant. Innovative, elegant, and honest, this is original work.
—Amaud Jamaul Johnson