Setareh Ebahimi In My Arms – Reviewed

Reviewed ByMelissa Todd

Setareh Ebahimi In My Arms -Reviewed by Melissa Todd for The Blue Nib. As well as being a Contributing Editor for The Blue Nib, Melissa Todd is a columnist for the Isle of Thanet News. She is currently writing a book with award winning poet Matt Chamberlain.

Setareh Ebrahimi is the most sensual of writers. To enter her world is to navigate a region of heightened sensation and dizzying intimacy. The mood of In My Arms is breathless, deathless, hushed, brimming with imagery that engages and intoxicates the senses. 

Her subject matter lists heavily to the corporeal, the thin skeins that link body to body, male to female, life to death, mother to child. Her poetry cries of our interconnectivity, and how, despite surface differentials, we are more than united; indeed, we are invariably transubstantiated, one to the other, through our interactions. Nothing stands alone in Ebrahimi’s world, and nothing is as it seems. The trappings of culture and civilisation are decried as irrelevant illusions, distractions from the physical world which transcends and unifies. In Learning to Draw Darwin she describes how the portrayal of human figures in a childish hand moves away from truth when bodies become clothed:

a dull point disguised as politics
a self-referencing, outer membrane.
The costumes become so fantastic
they obscure the humans they contain.
Perhaps she again wants abstraction, freedom.

That urge to cast off obscuration and seek physical freedom resonates throughout the work, even explored on the cover, which shows a woman’s torso curving in on itself, lean, balletic, ready to pounce. It’s women’s bodies that grace these pages, and in particular their relation to family and motherhood. It almost feels an unwelcome intrusion when a man makes an appearance in A Ghost in Berlin, one of the finest poems in the collection; the shockingly dark down/secretly on his body/the long hair, the beard – the reader is invited to observe the writer disappear as she reflects her ghost back upon himself, and underscores how very female the book has been up to this point.

The tactile nature of this work, the vivid, familial moments it describes, offer the reader a gently voyeuristic thrill. We watch Ebrahimi caress soft flesh with a delicate, reverent touch, describing its feel, fragrance, taste, in language almost unbearably revealing and intimate. This collection is a hymn to the body, its profound truths, its heightened connectivity, and within our contemporary society, the tragedy of its limitations, the hush that must, of necessity, fall upon it.

The tremendous crafting which has generated In My Arms borders on the obsessive – there is an unashamed lack of perspective here, an intimate exploration of the minutest detail. There is only the body, and the poet’s relation to and worship of it. It’s richly intoxicating, lavish and occasionally overwhelming. I want to pass through life unnaturally undisturbed and not disturbing, she cries, and in this collection she undoubtedly accomplishes her ambition; yet –  Release me from the drama of love and let me be free, she continues, and one wonders, selfishly, what on earth Ebrahimi would find to write about if ever she got her wish.