Farzana Doctor’s first poetry collection glows with the same care and thoughtfulness as her novels. I recently read Doctor’s latest book, Seven and found it breathtaking, so I was excited to read her voice again, this time as she expresses it through poetry. Fans of Doctor’s writing will recognize her keen eye for detail and new readers will be enchanted with the way she weaves dreams and memories together in the stanzas of her poems. Doctor’s language is always clear and accessible in these rhythmic, free verse poems, and her voice is familiar yet vulnerable, like a friend telling you a secret.
You Still Look the Same asks difficult questions: what is it like to start over when we have so many memories that remind us of the past? How do we move on? The poems take up issues of relationships: one’s relationship to aging, diasporic peoples’ relationships to their homeland, mother-daughter relationships, rekindling old friendships, the death of romantic relationships, and what it’s like to begin again—including reflections on the rather bleak world of online dating. Doctor covers a wide array of topics with ease, framing each section of the collection as a different assignment from therapy.
Although You Still Look the Same tackles challenging topics including the trauma of khatna, racism, and loss in its many forms, I found the collection to be hopeful, overall. In the poem “Dear Jibon,” the speaker is confronted with threatening messages on the internet, but ultimately decides that the sender is powerless, saying “hide your nothing, / hide your vacant,/ I know who you are.” In “Twitter Trolls, aka, Bohra Women for ‘Religious Freedom’,” Doctor gathers comments from women who urge her to “Stop making a mountain out of a molehill.” The genius of this poem is that it is shaped like a mountain, with the shortest comments at the top, eventually lengthening across the page into a triangular shape. In this poem, Doctor cleverly demonstrates that no matter how people try to minimize, excuse, or defend the cultural practice, the significance and impact of FGM/C on survivors is immense. There are lighter moments as well that are profound in their quiet beauty—like the poem that inspires the collection’s title: You Still Look the Same, which describes two childhood friends reconnecting after decades apart. The final stanza reads, “We parse out memories/ about olive- and brown-skinned girls,/ tell each other,/ you still look the same”, capturing the simple beauty and perhaps the improbability of meeting a childhood best friend after 40.
Introspective and thought-provoking, Doctor’s collection covers many themes including memory, changes, and the ways we must adapt to survive. The poems are profound, yet always approachable. If you enjoy Doctor’s fiction, you’ll delight in her poetry. It was a pleasure to read this collection and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
Farzana Doctor is the Tkaronto-based author of four critically acclaimed novels: Stealing Nasreen, Six Metres of Pavement, All Inclusive, and Seven. You Still Look The Same is her debut poetry collection. Farzana is also the Maasi behind Dear Maasi, a new sex and relationships column for FGM/C survivors. She is also an activist and part-time psychotherapist.
- Publisher : Freehand Books (May 1 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 96 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1990601057
- ISBN-13 : 978-1990601057
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Rachel Fernandes was raised in Ottawa, where she completed her Honours BA and MA in English at the University of Ottawa. She is now based in Kingston, where she is a PhD Candidate studying contemporary North American literature. Her research focuses on mixed race identity in various genres, including memoir, poetry, and the novel.
Over the last decade, she has published a smattering of poems through small presses such as In/Words, Joypuke, Coven, and Feathertale, and served on the editorial boards of The Ottawa Arts Review and The Lamp Literary Journal. She loves reading even more than she loves writing, and is excited to share and discuss new Canadian work through The Miramichi Reader.