The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Photograph of Solmaz Sharif

Solmaz Sharif

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Faculty 2020

About Solmaz Sharif

Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley, where she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, and New York University. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Granta, and others. The former managing director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, her work has been recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and an NEA fellowship. She was most recently selected to receive a 2016 Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. A former Stegner Fellow, she is currently a lecturer at Stanford University. Her first poetry collection, LOOK, published by Graywolf Press in 2016, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

More About Solmaz Sharif

---. "The End of Exile.2018.

As the dead, so I come
to the city I am of.
Am without.
To watch play out around me
as theater — 
audience as the dead are audience
to the life that is not mine.
Is as not
as never.
Turning down Shiraz’s streets
it turns out to be such
a faraway thing.
A without which
I have learned to be.
From bed, I hear a man in the alley
selling something, no longer by mule and holler
but by bullhorn and jalopy.
How to say what he is selling — 
it is no thing
this language thought worth naming.
No thing I have used before.
It is his
life I don’t see daily.
Not theater. Not play.
Though I remain only audience.
It is a thing he must sell daily
and every day he peddles
this thing: a without which
I cannot name.
Without which is my life.

Badra, Danielle. "The Split This Rock Interview with Solmaz Sharif." Split This Rock  

The job of the poem (I tend to think in terms like “job” and “duty” and “responsibility,” though readers are free to exchange these terms with “possibility” or “joy” or some other soft-footed term) is to make alive in the reader the rendered experience, which may or may not awaken possibilities of political action, but I don’t believe in vanguardism in literature or in politics, so I don’t have an action I’d prescribe. This makes me more of an agitator than, well, a legislator, because, yes, even my political poetry forefather Shelley’s famous dictum, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” irks me.

That said, my intention as a person is to end US imperialism, at home and abroad. Period. This intention does not evaporate when I write a poem, just as no marker of identity, no meal eaten, no words read, no lullabies sung, no spiritual sense of place, no sense of self evaporates, though some might insist it does and should.


Diaz, Natalie. "Look By Solmaz Sharif." The New York Times, August 19, 2016.

The language of “Look” is a body that cannot be separated from its maker — it is always the best and worst of its speakers’ desires, needs and actions. Language can never be innocent. An artful lexicographer, Sharif shows us that the diameter of a word is often as devastating as the diameter of a bomb. When she writes, “Let me look at you,” the mine detonates and a single line rings through the entire collection into the larger world of poetry and life: “It matters what you call a thing.”