December 8, 2021

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Baban, the Kurdish silent poet who conquered the United States

Alphabetical list of words, from “After Ordered Air Untouched Air American” to “Zero Zor So Sour Zero Zero” is the Afghan word for “difficulty”. The longing for a homeland never seen before, the “distant city of kings”. Confusion of known and unknown languages: “I have never heard / words in the language spoken in my head.”

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Hajjar Baban introduced himself in the United States with verses like this. $ 90,000 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, until you win a coveted prize. But already in 2017 he was named the recipient of the Detroit Youth Poet Prize, winning the national title the following year, and now the popular Amanda Gorman. He defines himself as a “poet”, but he describes himself as: “I’m a person who cares too much about everything, maybe too much, sometimes.”

Growing up in Michigan and now at Charlottesville University in Virginia, in the photos he distributes to the media, Baban designs his face with a soft shawl. A film that attacks Westerners, at least Westerners, retains a tradition that some Arab-Muslim women do not give up on, despite the stuffing, covering their hair. Not even when you were born to an Afghan mother in Pakistan, you have every reason to hate the Kurdish, in short, veil that your father fled from Iran.

According to Baban, the traditional helmet may be the outward sign of her life between two worlds, two languages, two religions (“I can pray to God in America / but not Allah. I do not know what words to use in American language”) Immigration weighs her like a tragedy (“in chains” When I left my house, I saw my body shattering “), the injury of not being able to share her parents’ memories: the defect expressed in keywords in empty parentheses in a poem entitled” If my father had given me words in his own language “about the execution in Iran .

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Despite the theatrical sense that his poems express, Baban rejects the uniquely tragic image of the Kurdish people in the West: “Mountains are only famous for avalanches, we are only for death.” In an interview with the Atlas Abscura website, he explains: “I can not get rid of the notion that this is the only aspect that people want to know about us.” The same is true in Afghanistan, where his mother is coming from: “But our existence is beyond tragedy, and we are beyond what the United States thinks is right to recognize us.”

His latest collection, “What I Know About the Mountains”, is dedicated to where he comes from and places he does not know, not only because he could not go there, but also because “my parents’ reluctance to share their separation”. He writes in a poem dedicated to his father: “I forgot, he acts like that.”

For this reason, the main ingredient of his words is silence: the mountains he speaks of in his verses and “there is even when I speak of places I have seen”. To the “new Americans” and the new citizens of the world “Where is your home?” To the trivially horrible question that needs to be asked, he replies: “I feel at home when I sit quietly with someone..