Nausheen Eusuf is a celebrated Bangladeshi poet. She’s currently a Ph.D. candidate in English at Boston University, and holds degrees from Wellesley, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Georgia. Her academic credentials are relevant because her poetry is, well, academic—but it’s also relatable, conversational, playful, and heartfelt. Among her many other accomplishments, she was included in Best American Poetry 2018, which she jokingly acknowledged at Monday night’s reading: “I’m a citizen of Bangladesh,” she quipped, “I don’t know how I got into Best American, because I’m not American.” Eusuf then dove into “Allegiance,” a love poem that, as she described it, “takes the immigrant experience as a metaphor for the foreign territory you enter in a relationship”:
I said I have nothing to declare, no valuables,
no currency, contraband, nothing. An alien,
I feared deportation. What if I can’t assimilate?
Later, in one of the more emotionally charged selections of the evening, Eusuf presented “Not Elegy, But Eros,” a poem dedicated to Xulhaz Mannan, an LGBTQ activist who was murdered in 2016 in Bangladesh. The last stanza of the poem reads:
I have faced the flash of steel, the howl
of unholy voices. But it was their eyes,
their hard unloving eyes, that undid me
Renato Rosaldo took the podium next. It’s difficult to recount his background concisely: his work is widely influential in the field of anthropology, he’s a professor emeritus of anthropology at NYU, and he’s a founding figure in the Latino studies world. In 1996 he began writing poetry, and what followed was a blend of multilingual phrases, distant voices, and remembered scenes, a style he dubbed antropoesía, or “ethnographic poetry.” Rosaldo read first from his 2014 book The Day of Shelly’s Death, which focuses, as he told the audience, “on the accidental death in the Philippines, on October 11, 1981, of Michelle Rosaldo, my then wife.” The poems are tragic and deeply personal, as they take the point of view of various persons and objects he was surrounded by on the day his wife died. Take, for example, the second stanza of, “The Tricycle Taxi Driver”:
After noon the soldiers arrive breathless,
say an American woman fell
from the precipice near Mungayang.
The night ended on a more jubilant note, however, as Rosaldo shared poems from his forthcoming book The Chasers. They recalled his time at Tucson High School with a group of his Mexican-American friends, “more club than gang,” whose “jackets made them visible at Tuscon High.”
The next Poets Out Loud event is on Thursday, October 18.
–Dane Gebauer, FCLC ’13