Return to the News Feed

Tarfia Faizullah

Tarfia Faizullah grew up in West Texas and graduated with an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She traveled to Bangladesh on a Fulbright Fellowship to interview the birangona: a Bangladeshi name for the women subjected to crimes against humanity in the 1971 Liberation War. The interviews gave rise to Faizullah’s first collection, Seam, winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry’s First Book Award.

The surviving birangona recounted their sexual and spiritual violation by Pakistani soldiers, from which Faizullah crafted haunting and complex portraits. While she acknowledges the failure of language to fully encapsulate human suffering, she was able to use her voice to reveal the complex emotional resonances of one of the most widescale atrocities committed against women in world history. Poems about the birangona mingle with others that describe the speaker’s emotional life and journey through Bangladesh.

Faizullah’s second book is Register of Eliminated Villages, which extends and transforms her powerful accounts of violence, war, and loss into poems of many forms and voices—elegies, outcries, self-portraits, and larger-scale confrontations with discrimination, family, and memory.

Along with co-founding and directing the Organic Weapon Arts chapbook press and video series with Jamaal May, Faizullah is the Nicolas Delbanco Visiting Professor of Poetry in the Helen Zeil Writer’s Program at the University of Michigan and a contributing editor for The Offing. Faizullah’s honors include the Dorothy Sergeant Rosenberg Prize, the VIDA award in poetry, and the Ploughshares Cohen Award. She has also been the recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, the Kenyon Review, and Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference.

Faizullah, Tarfia