Ghaffar: Nonfiction and Dream

I see Ghaffar continuously moving between a nonfictionish narrative and a dreamlike state of meditation, abstractness, and the awareness that nothing is what it seems. Nonfiction versus Dream. A strong example of this can be found in the poem In Possible Departures (begins on page 9). The first six parts I assumed to be a kind of nonfiction; given Ghaffar’s background and the inability to pinpoint the “I,” I characterized the voice as someone who is Ghaffar-but-not-Ghaffar. It would be unfair to say it is him, but I think we all will agree that it might be him. Never the matter–

The nonfiction contemplates “the myths of childhood” and the Father/Mother relationship, the voice feels guilty about his part in his parents’ disjuncture, and unsure of how to digest his ethnicity. For all these complexities, we understand that these parts are about something that happened (in someone’s reality). The voice is memoir-like, speaking of the past to the audience, and even if the voice is not at all Ghaffar, this is nonfiction. A fictional character’s nonfiction, to be sure, but a nonfiction nonetheless.

The turn to the Dreamer Genre occurs with part 7, which initiates with a future possibility for solace. The language of this part, like the rest of the poem, is sleep/dream-obsessed. “Into a place awakened,” “then they awoke us,” “the Nightmare roamed,” “that night I dreamed,” “he was having nightmares again”–et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This Nonfiction vs Dream mid course turn is significant not only as a poetic element, but as indication of the voice’s obsessions with ethnic/cultural identity. He knowingly moves between between realities, but he is also split by them. Sleep, awake, sleep, awake–the Nonfiction vs Dream is the pattern I identified in this poem, identified in many of Ghaffar’s poems.

What I’ve appreciated about Ghaffar is his memoir-like voice, which allows for an accessibility that I found less-present in Revolver, The Cosmopolitan. My poem-critic confidence has been restored by reading this work, because even if I’m not privy to the context, I am able to take his hand, so to speak. The voice’s directness is grounding, even when the narrative is beyond my individual scope.

2 Responses to “Ghaffar: Nonfiction and Dream”

  1. I got a similar reading of Ghaffar’s poetry with the nonfiction vs. dream. I like how you mentioned how he switches from meditative to reality or sleep to awake. Another aspect that made me think of this was his use of borders throughout his works, which I think also ties in greatly to this idea of nonfiction vs. dream. It is almost as though there are always two worlds that Ghaffar is trying to collide together. In a poem we looked at of his in class, he was trying to create a border for me, between his two heritages. And he is working with the border not only contextually, but also in what you noticed through your critical read of his work.

  2. cmdrquack Says:

    This feels like a good way to read his poetry. I struggled with accessing his work from start to finish, and while I believed I might have been able to get into it if I really were to sit down and take a lot of time reading pieces over and over, I never really had the motivation to do so for suspecting it might not be worth it. But it’s helpful to find a way of looking at his poems which in some sense simplifies, or at least feels like it simplifies, the experience, which I think your angle succeeds at. The memoir/dream shift idea may not work for every poem in the book, but as a form of interpretation, I think it certainly helps make it more accessible.

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