vocalisms #29: Angel Nafis


vocalisms is a regular feature that presents selected tracks from voca, the Poetry Center's online audio video library of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today.

photo of Angel Nafis

Angel Nafis provides a brief but mighty masterclass on the ghazal form in this track from her 2019 reading as part of the Art for Justice series. She describes the ghazal form as a “deeply ancient” equivalent of rap. “It’s also a way to consider a word…and implode it,” Nafis says, and her ghazal demonstrates this brilliantly, circling around the simple word “how” as an expression of the deep dismay and disorientation experienced by those who are incarcerated or have incarcerated loved ones. Listen for repetition, for subtle rhymes and shared music between words, for the carefully created pulse of rhythm carrying the poem forward as Nafis reads. This poem rewards multiple listens: new images or new phrases linger with me each time I hear it again.