29 Leads to Love by Salimah Valiani

Valiani has published six collections of poetry: breathing for breadth (TSAR), Letter Out: Letter In (Inanna Publications), land of the sky (Inanna Publications), Cradles (Daraja Press), 29 leads to love (Inanna Publications) and Love Pandemic (Daraja Press).

Some poets work at the level of image and metaphor, some at sound & fragment, some in narrative, others in concept. Valliani works at the concept of love to connect every distinct culture and person on earth.

Salimah Valiani’s 29 Leads to Love expands on and extends the focus of her 2009 collection, Letter Out: Letter In, with the Sufi notion of love as a kind of attention which unifies. What does this underlying structure express? It’s hard to get a handle on how each poem relates to love. This was rated between 2 and 5 stars on GoodReads. Some get it. It took me a couple reads.

Some poems link to love visibly, a tribute aeon to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, romantic heart break, or reflecting on how a lover and a child are cared for. These are easy loves.

In an interview at All Lit Up, Valiani said she observes, “this notion of grand love in the works of other poets. Jelalludin Rumi had to have been the first of these poets. Other types of artists have also depicted the larger love, which has inspired me, for instance, the painter Daphney Ojig,”

29 Leads to Love won the American BookFest International Book Awards for Contemporary Poetry 2022. The twenty-nine poems within each take a different tack on the concept of love.

It starts with love as “placeless things that bind/faceless things that remain” (p. 1) to the grounded in joyful things, such as autumn colours, “Virginias/holding onto red bricks/for dear life” (p. 2) and the beauty of absorption in dance, the exhalation of a finely wrought building, to perform song, a sunrise swim, the saturated vitality of travel in a new country.

Who said, “it isn’t poetry if it can’t be summarized?” Iain McGilchrist said poetry is embodied and can’t be dissected and remain itself (https://austinkleon.com/2021/09/27/if-a-book-can-be-summarized-is-it-worth-reading/). As Andy Weaver put it in ligament/ligature (Model Press, 2022), love “evolves/with no end point/no summation//no synopsis”.

Love can be the excitement of kaleidoscopic sunlit senses of Mexico City (p. 21-23) or the dwelling in non-time of meditating on a table (p. 24-25). Love is not a simple unnuanced thing. Love is asserting the need to change our ways “to do it differently” p. 29-35) and care for one another, the most vulnerable ones among us, whether children in danger, seas being overharvested, or isolated migrants. she “meets with what she wants to do//and she is doing it”. Love is caring about and listening to the people inside a litany of war massacres. Love is hearing stories, and this collection has many.

When ALU asked, How would you describe your poetry collection? she aptly answered, “Three words: loss, love, opening.”

The collection takes a journey and invites us as passengers.

See also  Test Piece by Sheryda Warrener

About the Author

Salimah Valiani is a poet, activist and researcher. She has published six collections of poetry: breathing for breadth (TSAR), Letter Out: Letter In (Inanna Publications), land of the sky (Inanna Publications), Cradles (Daraja Press), and 29 leads to love (Inanna Publications). Her audiobook, Love Pandemic is forthcoming from Daraja Press.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series (June 24 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 104 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 177133875X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771338752

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