In grief, language eludes, shifts, breaks down, betrays. Figment is an attempt to articulate the inarticulable, to glean meaning from scraps of language, and to see clearly that which exists just out of view. Through fragments and the abecedarian form, Leila Chatti parses the experience of pregnancy loss and the anguish of failed creation. Figment is a work of accumulation—words exist individually like dots of paint, which, when observed at a distance, reveal the larger subject.
“In Leila Chatti’s moving sequence of brief poems, Figment, she reminds us that it’s a poet’s imperative not just to care for what’s there—what’s seen, what’s sayable—but also to cultivate and suffer relationships with what’s beyond: the nothingness we’ll never know, a notion’s shadow, or ‘fiction with some // truth to it.’ In these abecedarian-inspired elegiac figment-fragments Chatti makes the ‘illegible ill / usion’ legible via the most basic of crisis forms, the alphabet: twenty-six letters with which to advance, an etymological map through an ‘amorphous / blank’ anguish. These vulnerably open invocations resolve themselves to no resolution; instead, they make tribute to the ‘terrible terrible tenderness’ of being in the ‘unbe’ and ‘unwas.’”
—Caryl Pagel, author of Out of Nowhere Into Nothing
“Leila Chatti’s Figment reminded me of Inger Christensen’s alphabet but a much sparser version. The sparseness in these poems mirror the fleeting spareness of a small body which once existed but no longer exists in physical form, but just memory and imagination. The main gesture, then, in Chatti’s apparitions is absence and thus what’s not on the page is equally as important as what’s on the page. In this way, this beautiful sequence is really exploring existentialism as a whole, mortality, and our limited time on this planet, as the poet writes: ‘faint yes brief / yes but here’ with no punctuation and floating on the page.”
—Victoria Chang, author of The Trees Witness Everything
“What comes after the desperate vulnerability of hope? The radiant candor of loss—’one good thing / undone.’ Leila Chatti’s language is a fruit unpeeling—’yesterwas / yondermost’—inviting us to taste it, draw it into our own mouths. Figment is one of our best young poets at the height of her powers.”
—Kaveh Akbar, author of Pilgrim Bell