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Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani Reviewed in Entropy!


Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani


Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani
BlazeVOX, 2015
126 pages – BlazeVOX / Amazon


The challenge in writing about Anis Shivani’s work is that there is so much one could write about and there are so many portals through which one can enter and access Shivani’s labyrinthian intellectual and emotional corridors.  If you are a vocal passenger traveling through Shivani’s tightly knitted, poetic, and semiotic avalanche of quirky images, what is Shivani asking you to say, to speak? Will Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish speak back to us, as if to engage in a one-sided conversation with us? Or will the speaker resort to silence, which is the mother of the Hashish experience, which is the text Shivani has birthed for us? Not from the mouth of nihilism, or Nietzsche, or the Enlightenment. Will you resort to “germinal silence”?  Is this prolific critic, poet, and novelist asking us to be “brave assassins stabbing in the dark,” or is he asking us to be a noun, a psychoactive resin? The hashish of the hashish. Is the assassin the narcotic or is it us, the readers, wanting the second person singular “you” to bend backward into time where we can stuff the stuffs of good and evil together in the sack of words which comprise this collection?

From then on, whatever pulls itself out of the linguistic sack of good and evil becomes Shivani’s poems. Or does he wish us to immorally vacillate and lubricate between sex and intellect as seen in his poem with the heavily alliterated “W” title, “Without Which He Would Not Have Written His Greatest Poems.” Which part of our intellectual and emotional or psychedelic impulses does he wish to engage? Or not at all – since Originality is dead or potentially dead. When creativity is dead, let nothing produce more of nothing. Or, in reading Shivani’s hashishlike language, am I  “the glamorous wom[a]n of Alexandria” who has founded “the best reference library” in Shivani’s second collection of conversationally enhanced poems. So when we read Shivani’s poems, we are asking ourselves if we are capable of being the Library of Congress. We face an enormous task. We can’t bundle Shivani’s words together like sticks and branches. There are over 100 pages of these steam engines of words. We can’t begin to pin down his sonnets. Perhaps, according to Shivani, the best poet removes himself entirely from the page and allows Hashish and the reader to coexist, to co-mingle, to get high on a voice together.

My mother said that if you get someone drunk, you can pull the truth out of them. Has Shivani, in writing this collection, pulled the truth from the mouth of the cosmos? Or the silence between two juxtaposed words? In Shivani’s poetic world, a world antipode to his decade-in-the making My Tranquil War, he is asking us to put down this war and to embrace another. The logic of not thinking. To embrace the emotional and intellectual content of our existence and to let the content of civilization and historic time, philosophical time, linguistic time, and manic time wash through us. Shivani has also invented an entire literary civilization using the imaginary autobiographical portraits of luminary figures, some dead and some alive. When Shivani writes this collection, he is adding another layer, a thick layer, of the collective consciousness on our already overabundant collective consciousness, monitored by Apple and Google and Pharmacology, as if the brain of existence needs to wear a Shivani-woven hat on its head – because the Winter of this lonely world is cold, so cold; a Shivani’s hat, a collective consciousness will keep us warm, not only in the Spring, but in the Summer too where the breeze can be a small knife that pierces the soft flesh of our gullet and cut the wind out of us and abandon us to the willow trees where we won’t be able to worship found poetry or loneliness. Here, google sculpted, Shivani writes, “Only boxers understand the loneliness/ of tennis players, maybe we were meant to be/ lonely, maybe we were meant to be on our own.”


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Anis Shivani to be interviewed on Pacifica Radio thursday!


Anis Shivani will be hosted on Houston' s Pacifica radio station's Living Arts show this Thursday evening from 6 pm to 7 pm kpft 90.1 discussing his new book, Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish. Do tune in!

Check out his book here

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Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani Now Available!

 Praise for Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish

“Startlingly fecund, culturally shrewd, grounded in bright particulars and sly juxtapositions, Anis Shivani shows us with diamond brilliance what happens when language takes leave of its day job to exult in its real power. No longer the bean counter of ordinary doings, it becomes its own freedom, conscious of itself as beacon of what we could achieve, were we to realize the wisdom of Emerson’s remark that the ultimate American trope is surprise.”

— David Rigsbee, author of School of the Americas and Not Alone in My Dancing: Essays and Reviews

“These poems are an homage to all that is ‘great’ about humanity, but, and maybe more importantly, they are also a skeptical, intelligent, and necessary confrontation with that greatness. Which is to say, Anis Shivani is in conversation with the best—the best poets, writers, and thinkers, from antiquity to now—and he is handling his own, with gravitas, humor, and originality.”

— Hayan Charara, author of The Alchemist’s Diary and editor of Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry

“Writing to, about, after and through poets and poetry, picking through erotic detritus and stylistic loot, all’s unfair game in Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish. Somewhere between a cry in the wilderness and a survival guide, taking whatever it takes from colonizers who themselves took it from the colonized, glutted with image and strung together with deadly sense: this is a big book, a full book, fevered and horny and tired. A cry is a compromised song, or a song is an ornate cry. Anis Shivani is a poet calling out to poets, seeking how a poet can and won’t survive.”

— Kate Schapira, author of How We Saved the City and The Soft Place

“Both arresting and inventive, Anis Shivani’s new poems reveal a rich sense of wonder at this complex thing we call humanity. Smart, unflinching, and relevant—this book demands rereading.”

— Ryan G. Van Cleave, author of The Florida Letters and editor of City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry

Anis Shivani is the author of several critically acclaimed books of fiction, poetry, and criticism, including Anatolia and Other Stories (2009), Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies (2011), The Fifth Lash and Other Stories (2012), My Tranquil War and Other Poems (2012), and Karachi Raj: A Novel (2015). Both Anatolia and Other Stories and The Fifth Lash and Other Stories were longlisted for the Frank O’Connor international short story award. Forthcoming books include Soraya: Sonnets and Literature in an Age of Globalization. Books in progress or recently finished include Death is a Festival: Poems, Plastic Realism: Neoliberalism in Recent American Fiction, and the novels A History of the Cat in Nine Chapters or Less, Abruzzi, 1936, and An Idiot’s Guide to America. Anis’s work appears in the Yale Review, Georgia Review, Boston Review, Iowa Review, Threepenny Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Antioch Review, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Fence, Epoch, Boulevard, Pleiades, Denver Quarterly, Verse, Colorado Review, Quarterly West, New Letters, Subtropics, Times Literary Supplement, London Magazine, Meanjin, Fiddlehead, and other leading literary journals. Anis is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, and his reviews appear widely in newspapers and magazines such as the Huffington Post, Daily Beast, In These Times, Texas Observer, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Austin American-Statesman, Kansas City Star, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, St. Petersburg Times, Charlotte Observer, and many other outlets. Anis is the winner of a 2012 Pushcart Prize, was educated at Harvard College, and lives in Houston, Texas.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 124 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-227-3




Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani Book Preview

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