As part of Canisia Lubrin’s (Dis)Order: The Single Question Series, Rasiqra Revulva answers a single question about her work.
Q: Writing converges different forms of knowing in ways that allow for the possibilities of knowledge to become particularly expansive because this seems to require listening for what is unknown to us. There exists a vitality that moves a thing from language to idea to fully-realized act. We mostly call such a thing vision, which implies form—whether poetry, fiction, stage play, etc.—and an amalgamation of copious other factors. What does this convergence mean for you as a poet—particularly in the context of your debut chapbook Cephalopography?
My debut chapbook Cephalopography is a multi-form exploration of various axes of human identities and experiences through the lens of cephalopods and their environments; aka an illustrated celebration of my imaginary best friends. It is composed of multiple poetic forms, an insert of interactive puzzles, and a series of glitch-art cephalopod illustrations/reverse ekphrases. Dive in, and don’t forget to breathe.
It begins with YouTube.
in my claimed shell i face away
How to recite the Du’a convincingly if reading along, but not how to interpret its meaning. Aik, do, theen, chaar, paanch. That Hindi song with the counting—Ek Do Teen … and so on. Billi. Titly. Food words. Swear words, but only those hissed by my mother. How to pretend. How to fail. How to fail at pretending. How to pretend at failing. No words for the ocean, or for what it contains.
Negative space: where I am, but not where I originate.
in undulating semaphore
i whisper across leagues to
the silk-ridged helm
the chambered age and privilege dividing us and i
It is sketched onto paper. It proceeds as a drawing. It is tinted. It is inked. It proceeds as a painting. It is dried. It is digitized. It proceeds as a painting of a drawing scanned into a document.
between these curving fibres
parting the downy spines
with eight fluttering tips
separate and eager
before shunting all feetandhead inside
A body that aches (bodies of water). A body that molts (bodies of salt). A body that mistakes (bodies of flesh). A body that revolts (bodies without). A body that splits (bodies of water). A body that swarms (the body, Gestalt). A body that exits (embody the water). A body that transforms (nobody at fault).
and live within the hollow bowl
It opens on a screen. It reopens as code on a screen. It proceeds with poetry embedded into code on a screen. It augments. It opens on a screen. It reopens as code on a screen. It stutters. It opens on a screen. It reopens as code on a screen. It distorts. It opens on a screen. It proceeds as garbled translation. It is a glitch.
and seek you in that space though my found shell blocks off the waves
i still believe will bear me you
on waters i may never taste
It has three hearts. It has eight arms. It has nine brains. We are the same.
still face away
to mitigate the favour
As I am writing, flood waters are rising. In Houston, both Jamat Khanes my Nani attends twice daily have been submerged for nearly 48 hours. In Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, places within me I can’t begin to know and an ummah that I never will have been obliterated. In Church-Wellesley Village, charcoal-filtered water turns to ash inside my mouth.
And I whisper. And I flutter. And I believe. And yet, I live.
in the evolutionary diaspora of the deep-sea
in a liquid world.
*italicized lines form the entirety of “Tool Use,” which was the first “Cephalopography” poem ever conceived and written. It was originally published in Issue 6 of Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, and in the Hermeneutic Chaos Press “First Annual Jane Lumley Prize” chapbook in January of 2015.