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  • Writer's pictureNazifa Islam

A Painting and "The Birds" Poems in Entropy

I'm excited to share that I have four poems and a painting in Entropy! The poems are all part of Entropy’s “The Birds” series and they're accompanied by an abstract black-and-white painting of mine: “#58.” It would be swell if you could take some time to check out all the art.

I wrote “The Seagull” a few years after graduating with my MFA. It was a relief to write. I’d been completely tapped out creatively for months and months and then one random afternoon, “The Seagull” came together so very quickly. I made very few edits to the original draft of the poem. I enjoy rereading it now because on some level it doesn’t really feel like I was the one to write it. It always feels somehow new.

“The Feast of Ravens” is a heavily Poe-inspired poem I wrote while a graduate student at Oregon State. The poem actually ended up in my thesis—so it’s only taken six years to find the right journal for it. Also, I will do you the courtesy of warning you that “The Feast of Ravens” is my most grotesque—almost punishing in a way—poem. Nothing pleasant about it. That being said, I think readers struggling with anxiety and/or depression might appreciate it.

“This Sunrise” was one of the last poems I wrote as a graduate student. It was late enough in the term that most thesis defenses had already wrapped up, so “This Sunrise” is not part of my graduate thesis. We might have had just a few weeks of grad school left at the time I wrote it actually. Instead of the usual Sylvia Plath influence on my writing, “This Sunrise” is much more influenced by L.M. Montgomery. There’s (an attempt at) a bit of whimsy in the language, and I tried to capture a piece or moment of the natural world in the poem, which is something Montgomery does beautifully in all of her novels.

Of the four poems, only one—“The Bird in My Heart Was Frightened”—is a Virginia Woolf found poem, which is rather a departure for me at this point. The last poems I published that had nothing to do with Virginia Woolf can be found in Issue 2 of Random Sample Review, which went live in August 2019. “The Bird in My Heart Was Frightened” is a complete overhaul of a Woolf found poem I was really struggling with—it just wouldn’t come together. I ended up scrapping the original poem and starting over. Cobbling together the line/title “The Bird in My Heart Was Frightened” from the paragraph was the catalyst that brought the rest of the poem together.

I used a paragraph from The Waves to write “The Bird in My Heart Was Frightened.” You can read it below—the words I used to write the poem are in red.

'I was running,' said Jinny, 'after breakfast. I saw leaves moving in a hole in the hedge. I thought "That is a bird on its nest." I parted them and looked; but there was no bird on a nest. The leaves went on moving. I was frightened. I ran past Susan, past Rhoda, and Neville and Bernard in the tool-house talking. I cried as I ran, faster and faster. What moved the leaves? What moves my heart, my legs? And I dashed in here, seeing you green as a bush, like a branch, very still, Louis, with your eyes fixed. "Is he dead?" I thought, and kissed you, with my heart jumping under my pink frock like the leaves, which go on moving, though there is nothing to move them. Now I smell geraniums; I smell earth mould. I dance. I ripple. I am thrown over you like a net of light. I lie quivering flung over you.'

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