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Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Ethiopian American Mahtem Shiferraw’s Fuchsia examines conceptions of the displaced, disassembled, and nomadic self. Embedded in her poems are colors, elements, and sensations that evoke painful memories related to deep-seated remnants of trauma, war, and diaspora. Yet rooted in these losses and dangers also lie opportunities for mending and reflecting, evoking a distinct sense of hope. Elegant and traditional, the poems in Fuchsia examine what it means to both recall the past and continue onward with a richer understanding.
Mahtem Shiferraw is a native of Ethiopia and Eritrea and now lives in Los Angeles, California. Her work has appeared in Mandala Journal, Callaloo, Luna Luna Magazine, Cactus Heart Press, Blast Furnace, and Mad Hatters' Review.
"Shiferraw’s poems reveal craft, wisdom, and a panoramic gaze."—Adam Tavel, Plume
“Fuchsia, culled from robust life and a finely tuned imagination, captures mysteries of the heart and mind alongside everyday rituals. Each poem dares us line by line, and suddenly we’re inside the delicate mechanism of a deep song. The magical, raw, bittersweet duende of Fuchsia speaks boldly. The personal history and emotional architecture of Ethiopia and Eritrea reside in every portentous poem here. But the stories, each shaped and textured by true feeling, are also ours because they beckon to us.”—Yusef Komunyakaa, author of The Emperor of Water Clocks
“In sometimes startlingly precise, and always musical, language, Shiferraw writes of her childhood in Ethiopia and of her contemporary life in Los Angeles with clarity, insight, and courage. Whether she is writing about butchering a sheep, uncles disappearing, a mother’s mystical definition of self, of war, of poverty, of Kalashnikovs, or of hair, the words on these pages ‘rummage’ until they explode—into beauty.”—Gail Wronsky, author of the poetry collection So Quick Bright Things
“These poems are always informed with a bittersweet sense of exile, of witness, and of a properly ambivalent stance toward the bewildering consumerist culture in which the writer now finds herself. Yet Shiferraw’s poetry is also suffused with wonder—richly associative, Whitmanic in its linguistic energy and totally complex, shifting without warning from wit to gravity, from self-reflection to lyric abandon. Fuchsia is a richly promising debut.”—David Wojahn, author of World Tree
“Color weaves through the collection, but in ‘Synesthesia,’ colors shoot up like flares to illuminate the trauma of fleeing home. . . . Gifted with synesthesia, the poet knows the world through color. Through her complex use of color, Shiferraw reveals home, made again through the action of memory, lending heartache, depth, and comfort to our lives.”—Mary Catherine Ford, World Literature Today
“[Fuchsia] is deeply sensual: full of color, sense memories, and small details of life.”—Alex Dueben, The Rumpus