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From the beginning, the poet was a wanderer, a storyteller, an imaginer of bridges between worlds. Zaffar Kunial is just such a poet and guide for us today. Yet his territory extends much further afield than those of the past – through Kashmir, where his father was born and now lives, to the Midlands of his mother’s birth, and further north to ancestors in Orkney, as well as through language, memory and time. Already an acknowledged star of the Faber New Poets scheme, Kunial has won admirers in such measure as to ensure that Us is one of the most anticipated debuts in recent times. Across its pages, he vocalises what it means to be a human being planting your two feet upon the dizzying earth – and he does so delicately, urgently, intimately – in some of the most original and touching ways that you will read.
‘Zaffar Kunial is a poet whose work thrills me, who makes you return to the origins of things, places, language and people again and again. He’s a poet who takes traditions seriously but makes of them something entirely new – a must.’
Us by Zaffar Kunial abounds with poems which are witty, playful and heart-breaking by turns. Drawn to the place where things don’t quite meet, which he describes as “a kind of abysmal underneathness/or usness/under the heights of language”, his is a wondrous poetic of loopholes, portals and translations, and of the magic in-between.
'Zaffar Kunial moves with grace during his quest to track the roots of his mixed-race identity in his debut collection, Us ... [His poetry] captures the confused energy of personal history with compelling force, calling out beyond the bounds of the page to draw connections in surprising places.'
Kunial’s virtuosity as a lexicographer and engineer of words is what captivates most in the poems ... Kunial shares something of Heaney’s ability to find meaning and symbolism in the hearth and home.
'Us provides the collection’s title but not Kunial’s last word: the grit that originates and animates his calm and assured-seeming poems is identity, which consists of interestingly twisted strands of connection and disconnection. '
‘There’s something about the precise, thoughtful, unhurried way in which he interrogates language that marks him out as a unique talent. A real find.’
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