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Abdul Ali

TJ Jarrett

Abdul Ali was born in Mt. Pleasant, NY but raised in New York City. Ali is a two-time recipient of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ Literature fellowship. He was a fellow at American University where he received his M.F.A in Creative Writing. His poems have appeared in Gargoyle, A Gathering of Tribes, New Contrast, and the anthology Full Moon on K Street, among other literary journals and magazines. He currently teaches at Towson University and lives in Maryland with his family.


Trouble Sleeping

Trouble Sleeping Trouble Sleeping

$15.00 paper | 73 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936970-32-2
Publication Date: March 2015
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"This book is an open book. There is no lying in it, no sleep in reading it, no hiding from the person or place it comes from. The poems are deeply steeped in the African American experience and a tradition I would trace to Langston Hughes and Washington DC where buses are good places for poets.  You can write on your lap, read an open book and listen to beautiful conversations. This is what reading Trouble Sleeping is like to me. You get somewhere."
         —Fanny Howe

"Abdul Ali’s Trouble Sleeping awakens the mind. Like the guts of a marvelous timepiece, the incremental details tick with merciless accuracy and timeless certainty. Urban, gutsy, each poem exposes the conflicts of an inner-city speaker. Yet even in the midst of conflict one believes the voice saying, 'I love the city.' Here, popular culture converges with iconic moments of American history; personal and worldly affairs, and a knowing, practiced music holds Trouble Sleeping together as a needful song."
        —Yusef Komunyakaa

"In Trouble Sleeping’s extraordinary central poem, 'Elegy,' the speaker addresses his subject, Troy Davis: 'I imagine this life different--/not opposed to life, black life.' It is a thought central to this book's dilemma and purpose, and a gesture of concentration intense enough to keep one up nights. There is a kind of poetry that puts one to sleep, and there is a kind of poetry that troubles and awakens. In his debut collection, remarkable for its range and intelligence, Abdul Ali indeed troubles us awake, conjuring a filmic display of a cast of thousands, including but not limited to the father in Far Rockaway, the grandfather whose cologne is 'a cocktail of Joop,/mothballs,/crushed cloves,' the God whose 'ears are full of cotton,' and the many names of the lost. Nevertheless it is real life, marked by compassion and attention, that saves us from the nightmare of history, with each blink promising something brand new: this different life, unopposed to waking up, is not merely possible but ineluctable, a notion whose time has come."
        —David Keplinger

"Abdul Ali moves us in the language we all understand.  Stay with him, he’s got voice enough to hold you and fold you in.  These are wonderful, well-written, thought-provoking poems."
        — Hettie Jones



the fire escape cat calls
       with her cherry limbs
the window frames three men
       on the corner in holla-back
red bandanas

the radio dial scratches
       to a jumpin’ Gershwin tune
& I lose time remembering. . .
       the metallic taste of blood,
a head submerged under water,

silence folds, the walls close in
       everything trembles
I stare down twelve stories
       & imagine thirteen
bad endings.