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Through a personal, historical, and political lens, Mahtem Shiferraw attends to the collective experiences inherited through deeply-rooted ancestry, tracing patterns of movement and migration, sorrow and invisibility, and the resulting complicated notions of home.
In Nomenclatures of Invisibility, Shiferraw calls us to carve out space for the multitudes of selves we carry when we migrate across boundaries of body, language, and land. With momentum, giving name to everything in her path from the longing that comes with migration to her beloved eucalyptus tree, she blurs physical and temporal borders, paying homage to ancestors past, present, and future. Shiferraw writes unapologetically against erasure, against invisibility, instead creating a space that holds grief lovingly, that can tend to the wounds held and held in the endlessly-traveling body. Brilliant with abundance and texture, Shiferraw's poems dismantle the empire's sterile use of language, both historical and present. In Nomenclatures of Invisibility, Mahtem Shiferraw builds a home within her poems, attentively naming those who exist within them out of invisibility and into the radiant light: "We walk / in unison too: our backs bending at once, / our arms breaking, our abdomens / kicked into silence, thighs bleeding. Through / this I ask; am I still lit? And they, again /...what else would you be--"
About the Author
Mahtem Shiferraw is a writer and visual artist from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Her work has been published in various literary magazines, including Callaloo, Prairie Schooner, Poets.org, The 2River View, Luna Luna Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Numero Cinq, and more. Her short story "The River" received an Honorable Mention at Glimmer Train's Open Fiction Contest. In 2016, she won the Sillerman Prize for African Poets and her full-length collection, Fuchsia, was published by the University of Nebraska Press. Her poetry chapbook, Behind Walls & Glass, was published by Finishing Line Press. Her most recent collection, Your Body Is War, is out now from the University of Nebraska Press. She has served as editor for Atlas and Alice, The Bleeding Lion, The Hunger Mountain, and more. She is the founder of Anaphora Arts, a nonprofit organization working to advance the works of writers and artists of color. She has served as a jury member for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, the Lucy Munro Brooker Prize, among others. She is a Pushcart prize nominee, and her work has been anthologized widely. In 2018, she received the Imani Award for Artistic Excellence from Harvard University. As of 2020, she also serves on the Editorial Board of World Literature Today. She holds an MFA from Vermont College.