logo
Charif Shanahan
Charif Shanahan
Inaugural Gregory Pardlo Scholar

2017 Poetry Seminar Fellow Charif Shanahan

Meet Charif Shanahan

Charif Shanahan is the author of Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing, winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Prize and forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press. His poems and translations have appeared in numerous publications, including A Public Space, The Baffler, Barrow Street, Boston Review, Callaloo, The New Republic, and Prairie Schooner. A Cave Canem graduate fellow, he holds degrees in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and Dartmouth College and an MFA in poetry from NYU. Formerly Programs Director of the Poetry Society of America, he is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Cave Canem Foundation, the Fulbright Program, Millay Colony, and the Starworks Foundation, as well as Stanford University, where he is a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry.

On Being Named the Inaugural Gregory Pardlo Scholar

A Poem by Charif Shanahan

 

Gnawa Boy, Marrakesh, 1968

The maker has marked another boy to die:
his thin body between two sheets,
black legs jutting out onto the stone floor,
the tips of his toenails translucent as an eye.
Gray clumps of skin, powder-light,
like dust on the curve of his unwashed heel
and the face, swollen, expanding like a lung.
At its center, the sheet lifts and curves:
his body’s strangeness, even there.
One palm faces down to show the black
surface of hand, the other facing up
white as his desert’s sky.
As if underwater,
he passes from that room into the blue
porcelain silence of the hall, where the light-
skinned women have gathered in waiting:
no song of final parting, no wailing
ripped holy from their throats:
the women do not walk into the sun,
they hide their bodies from it
(those pale wrists, those pale temples):
they do not walk the streets,
they do not clutch their own bodies,
they do not hit themselves in grief—

[The Gnawa are a black people indigenous to West and North Africa.]