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Published by Shearsman Books, this collection of found poems is directly influenced by the work of Virginia Woolf. The poems are written using only the words from individual paragraphs of either Mrs. Dalloway or The Waves. Words are not repeated, added, or edited for tense or any other consideration. These poems are simultaneously defined by both the poet’s choices with language as well as Woolf’s.

View poems paired with the paragraphs used to write them.

From Andre Bagoo, author of The Dreaming and Narcissus:

"This is a collection of found poems taken from two novels by Virginia Woolf; a kind of extended Oulipian exercise that asks us to dip into a difficult sea. Consider the relationship between the resultant poems and the source texts. Consider the different ways of reading the new material. Are they chronicles of a toxic relationship? An internal dialogue? A series of placeless artefacts? Each poem feels like staring at the budding flame of a candle that may or may not go out. Hold your breath and watch."

From Karen Holmberg, author of The Perseids and Axis Mundi:

"The poems of Forlorn Light have the dazzle, intensity, and allure of sharp-edged things. The speed and propulsion of a scary ride at the amusement park, one you dismount wobbly-legged, exhilarated, and somehow more alive. Not light, but ‘incandescence,’ not fragrance but ‘storm-tinted scents.’ These poems and their existential questions about what we desire and why will leave lasting afterimages in your mind, as if Islam has turned the words into gunpowder and strung them on the fuse of syntax. To say Nazifa is a master of the found poem would be inappropriately mild; she is the found poem’s diva."

From Jennifer Richter, author of Threshold and No Acute Distress:

"At the heart of Nazifa Islam’s compelling, unforgettable Forlorn Light is transformation: the poet finding her own remarkable words in Woolf’s, and the speaker shifting between emotional and physical states. Acknowledging 'I feel continually/remade into existence,' the speaker is characterized at one point as 'a ribbon of weed' and at others 'bone and paper and green hours,' 'scorched sea/foam and fire,' 'the flecked light/the dead see,' and 'a cricket dangling over teeth.' This shapeshifting restlessness propels the entire collection and ensures 'nothing is staid/nothing is settled.' For so many reasons, including its meticulous crafting and its devastating narrative arc, I admire Forlorn Light tremendously."

From Kathy Davis' review:

"Nazifa Islam’s elegant collection, Forlorn Light, is an absorbing journey of emotional revelations."

"This is a book that, like Woolf’s novels, reveals new layers of meaning with each reading. You will go back to it again and again."

From Naoko Fujimoto's review in RHINO:


"The amazing thing about Islam’s found poetry is that it still captures the original elements of Virginia Woolf’s complicated psychological state, while being adapted and transformed into something new."

From Jennifer Lee Tsai's review in Mslexia:

"An arresting and melancholic collection, suffused with the brilliance of Woolf's prose. These are unsettling poems which evoke 'a sense of infinite darkness/of unlighted sky and time' ("I Know Permanence")."

From Amie Whittemore's review in Southern Indiana Review:


"Islam has netted beauty from these two texts, not so much simplifying but crystallizing Woolf, homing in on some of the central motifs from [Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves] to create something that is at once its own as well as in conversation with its origins."

Read an interview featuring the collection at Michael Chin's blog.

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