Goodbye, Genre — Turns in “Goodbye, Toronto”

In “The Mid-Course Turn” Gerry Harp discusses work that turns, midway through, from the “genre of its development” to a different genre all together. When you look at Asher Ghaffar’s work, what genres do you see incorporated? Describe the connections and disconnections Ghaffar makes as he turns from one genre to another in the course of a single poem.

I think I’m having a little difficulty pinning down a precise definition for “genre” in the context of genres within an individual poem navigated by turns, but it seems to me that Ghaffar uses turns to move to various genres in “Goodbye, Toronto” (page 72).

The first two stanzas seem to be mostly matter-of fact, delivering information with observation.

In the Toronto Star the alleged terrorist’s eyes appear red.
She scours the photos at Abu Ghraib looking for clues and emerges
from that short-lived project with a bag over her head, eyes torn out.

Take the rag off your head. This is how she slowly loses
her sexuality. You can see through the redness of his eyes,
with soup in your ears and sand in your eyes.

While I think the tone in the second stanza takes on a little more interest/investment than the first, I do not think the slight shift constitutes a change in genre.

Perhaps a shift in genre is arguable from the second stanza to the third:

Choice is a matter of taste.
We are gentle men breeding black babies
from tongues , alien words. We are pipers
who strife the sea. The plane circles the Atlantic
and we drop black silence.

Stylistically, Ghaffar seems to be writing differently; lines are shorter and broken farther from the ends of sentences and the speaker’s language is more abstract.

Again, I think a genre shift is arguable from this stanza to the fourth and then fifth:

Because the mass came from energy, and the Prophet(s)
were energy. The in-between was theorized as a realm
of smokeless fire. For this reason, it obeys one moment
and rebels the next. You can’t kill your double. Arabian

Nights was translated by a Victorian sentimentalist.

The italicized section seems to suggest either a change in speaker, or a different kind of reflection by the same speaker. What’s most interesting to me here is that the last line of the italicized section is enjambed, so the transition from the fourth stanza to the fifth is also a transition from italics to plain text, possibly a transition from one speaker to another, and a transition from one “genre” to another.

I feel like the tone and style, and perhaps thus the genre, shift again moving to the sixth/seventh stanzas:

Fingers grow enraged.
Trace scribing.

Memory knows
no limit. Present
to itself. Present to the body,
resurrected. The shards
of history shine. The body

The syntax here changes. The speaker delivers shorter sentences/fragments and breaks the lines earlier, adding to the abrupt/fragmented feel of the shorter sentences.

I think one final genre shift is arguable again in moving to the final four lines, which seem to simultaneously stand independently and together visually:

One leg lodged in ghostliness

Goodbye, Toronto.

We will not mourn this empty city.

This flowering house, deflowered.

The language here is also unique, certainly far removed from the more concrete, detailed, matter-of-fact first two stanzas.


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