"Once upon a time, from a wounded land/ My family was pushed to leave our homeland," writes Parwana Amiri in her book of poems, We will fly higher. This collection focuses on her love for her homeland, Afghanistan, and her experiences as a refugee at Lesvos Island. She writes about the feeling of her loss of identity and her longing for safety after losing her country to war. In the book, she portrays the untold stories of refugees who are silently calling out for help. Parwana uses poetic devices such as repetition, punctuation, and sensory detail to emphasize the emotion inside her poems.
We will fly higher begins with a poem, "We are burning," about a family of refugees who lost their child in a fire. They mourn the loss of the baby and challenge their oppressors to imagine the situation that they now live in. The last poem, "The Displaced," recounts the poet's life as a refugee. She reflects her struggles and the small flicker of hope that remains inside her. She passionately encourages each reader to work hard to give each refugee their rights back.
The poet uses repetition frequently to make her messages strong. The emphasis is especially powerful when she repeats the structure. For example, in the poem "Your Eyes Bother Us," the same four line stanza is repeated seven times throughout the poem. Five end with the verse "Your eyes bother us!" The stanzas reflect the idea that outsiders should not be bystanders but instead protest for change. She also repeats the use of exclamation marks, which convey strong emotion.
When Parwana wrote about her homeland, she used sensory detail to make the reader feel as if they were with her in that moment of her childhood. In "Greetings to nature," she describes her homeland: "Hey green fields, touch my knees" and "Hey sky, welcome my night / Through your smiling, sparkling stars." Her attention to detail shows her deep love for her home, Afghanistan. Although refugees have lost their power to speak in their homeland, she protests the loss of power through words on paper, which are just as loud as their voices.
In many of the poems, the poet writes about how she will not stop until all refugees gain their rights back. In the poem "The Displaced" she writes, "We will raise the sails of freedom...I am committed to that struggle! For no one is free, until we are!" She vows to never stop writing and protesting. Her drive and emotion aim to empower the reader to join refugees in their struggle instead of being a bystander.
Ultimately, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves poetry and is interested in learning more about the untold stories of refugees and the beauty and culture of Afghanistan.
We will fly higher by Parwana Amiri. Palewell Press, 2022. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!