Hard Damage

Hard Damage

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Author: Aria Aber

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (2019)

Hard Damage works to relentlessly interrogate the self and its shortcomings. In lyric and documentary poems and essayistic fragments, Aria Aber explores the historical and personal implications of Afghan American relations. Drawing on material dating back to the 1950s, she considers the consequences of these relations—in particular the funding of the Afghan mujahedeen, which led to the Taliban and modern-day Islamic terrorism—for her family and the world at large.

Invested in and suspicious of the pain of family and the shame of selfhood, the speakers of these richly evocative and musical poems mourn the magnitude of citizenship as a state of place and a state of mind. While Hard Damage is framed by free-verse poetry, the middle sections comprise a lyric essay in fragments and a long documentary poem. Aber explores Rilke in the original German, the urban melancholia of city life, inherited trauma, and displacement on both linguistic and environmental levels, while employing surrealist and eerily domestic imagery.

“Hard Damage questions and mourns the idea of citizenship. This collection focuses on stories of displacement, which Aber accomplishes by breaking boundaries, breaking forms, and even breaking language.”

–Chicago Review of Books

“I couldn’t help but read Hard Damage as an origin story and the shattering of an origin story at once. It sets out with an impossible task: How does a voice fill the gap, the void, of life as a perpetual refugee? How do you collect what’s left of a life after warfare, and make something from it? How do you make a life when all you have known has been marked by imperial violence? Or when life’s central thread has been severed, and you’re left with frayed ends?”

–The Rumpus

Winner of the Whiting Award