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Selected by Tracie Morris in our 2020 Open Call for First Books.
Ada Smailbegović’s debut poetry collection, THE CLOUD NOTEBOOK, is a long poem that unfolds from the narrative instability and fracturing that occurs from experiences of forced displacement and war, and from configurations of gender and power. The poem assumes what Sara Ahmed refers to as a “migrant orientation”: a continuous problematic of narrative unfolding that renders spaces of suspension, waiting, and a kind of fractal reoccurrence in which the narrative fragment is held, revisited and re-performed in memory, as it often represents the only remainder of a now dislocated world. Deeply engaged with the material and sensual qualities of language, Smailbegović explores how language and its objects come to compose worlds and, at times, to outlive them as insistent residue of the past. The Cloud Notebook is at once playful, probing, elegiac, humorous, and ceaselessly, spellbindingly metamorphic.
“The Cloud Notebook is like an impressionist painting, like the punctum detail of a collage. It’s a smart, soulful, traumatized and elegant collection.” — Tracie Morris
“I did not want this book to end. Like a great work of science fiction, The Cloud Notebook asks us to reimagine perception, using the study of matter as an antidote to contemporary ideology. Smailbegović takes influence from memories of childhood, spiritual practice, conceptualism, botany, alchemy, and house parties—yielding a series of accessible philosophies of rescue, dreaming, guessing, worship, description, hosting, mending. An intensely trained and liberatory vision is here, alive with us today, reminding one of Julia Kristeva’s call for a ‘signifying space,’ a corporeal thinking in love with its own desire.” — Lucy Ives
“A duck is kidnapped from a park and placed on a sofa only to show up on the sofa next door. A speaker wonders in wartime whether to feed the zoo lions or let them free. Someone points out that you can hear the sound of the ocean, but not of individual waves. Ada Smailbegović’s work of deep relational concern allows me to dwell in ‘joining occasions,’ unfolding them with such delicacy that I can relinquish knowing if I am in the world or in a drawing of a world, in a dream or in a life, a war or a sentence where words regarding war touch. If reality occurs in a notebook of passing clouds, we see the traces smudge between the pages — till the pluralizing realities bleed and mark us at all the edges.” — Eleni Sikelianos
Ada Smailbegović is a poet and theorist born in Sarajevo and living in a series of geographical displacements between Providence, Vancouver and New York. She is an assistant professor of English at Brown University. Her writing explores relations between poetics, nonhuman forms of materiality, histories of description, and the natural sciences. She is a cofounder of The Organism for Poetic Research. Select critical and poetic works have included "Of Poodles, Mockingbirds and Beetles: Gertrude Stein's Zoopoetics" (College Literature, 2019), "From Code to Shape" (differences, 2018), The Forest / On Waiting (Doublecross Press, 2017), "Cloud Writing" (Art in the Anthropocene, 2015) and "Of the Dense and Rare" (Triple Canopy, 2013). Her book Poetics of Liveliness: Molecules, Fibers, Tissues, Clouds was published by Columbia University Press in 2021.