Khashayar “Kess” Mohammadi (He/They) is a queer, Iranian born, Toronto-based Poet, Writer and Translator.
I like to pair books with albums based on the feelings they give me, I let the synaesthesia carry me towards the album I’ll settle on. For this list I’ve picked nine of the books that have been the most pivotal to my personal exploration of poetry and how I write-these are books that I’ve read over and over and through different readings, have extracted something special. Because of my extended time spent with them, I’ve become quite attached to the albums I’ve paired with them as well, and now I’ll take you through them one by one, with some explanation for each.
Letters in a Bruised Cosmos by Liz Howard and Weyes Blood’s “Titanic Rising”
I’ve always admired Liz Howard’s work, and their intricate interweaving of the granular with the titanic and divine. The soft aching in their poetry always evokes the image of an animal, bleeding upon a bed of snow. Their writing feels like a holy sacrifice, that in due process, they ache so perhaps the reader doesn’t have to. Their poetry is selfless and there’s nothing more selfless than the cosmos itself, with its little terrestrial microcosm: Nature. their explorations of nature in all its violent glory, the explorations of the universe and all its cultural insignia: the choice is quick and simple! Just put on the second track “Andromeda” to experience its lush sonic wall of lavish, extravagant, and cosmically colorful instrumentals. Pick Up Liz Howard’s Book and start the album at the same time, you won’t be disappointed.
Mihyar the Damascene and Ahmed Malek & Flako’s “Electronic Tapes”
I don’t think anyone will ever replace Adonis in my heart. I was never the same after being acquainted with Mihyar. My poetry made such a huge leap forward after realizing what self-possessed West-Asian poetry can contribute to contemporary poetry. I’ve paired his book with The phenomenal restoration that Habibi Funk put together from Ahmed Malek’s Electronic tapes, further edited by Flako. I love how each track has its own moodscapes, the same way that Mihyar enters and exits entire worlds each page.
ekke by Klara Du Plessis and Esperanza Spalding’s “12 little Spells”
I’ve always been fascinated by poetry that moves comfortably across languages. This pairing is more based on the coherence and the parallel compartmentalizations. The album and the book mirror each other so beautifully in style and even in their organization.
Washes Prays by Noor Naga and Lianne La Havas’s “Blood”
Washes Prays is my favorite book written on Islamic desire. I love how Noor Naga explores so much traditional Islam, while as a devout Muslim, being incredibly incisive and critical of its oppressive qualities. When I read “Washes Prays” I feel like I wanna hear some nice mellifluous singing. Lianne La Havas it is.
Book of Frank by CA Conrad and Limp Wrist’s “Facades”
When I think CA Conrad, I think queer, I think Punk, I think anti establishment. I can’t think of anyone more unapologetically punk than CA Conrad, and I can’t think of a better, more queer punk album than Facades, with little hints of electronic music mixed in here and there.
Paul Celan’s “Breathturn to Timestead” and Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony no.3 performed by Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Orchestra
Celan’s poetry made me unlock secrets to the cosmos. I find every single word he puts on the page to be lachrymose and tear inducing, so I’ve picked the single strongest tear-jerking record I know: Beth Gibbons. She lends her heavenly voice to the single most heart wrenching rendition of Gorecki’s symphony no. 3 you will ever hear.
Trish Salah’s “Lyric Sexology Vol. 1” and Anthony And the Johnsons’ “I am a bird now”
Perhaps the most literal of the pairings, my all time favorite writing on trans identity and its vicissitudes, paired with my all time fave album by a trans musician. Trish Salah is a true gem and I’ve loved all their writing, but this book is something else, and with Anohni’s voice weeping in your ears, Salah’s poetry takes on a heavenly hue.
Larissa Lai’s “Iron Goddess of Mercy” and Oneohthrix Point Never’s “R Plus Seven”
Iron Goddess of Mercy is brimming with landscapes-it’s urban, it’s urgent, it’s immediate and pleading. A single page in and I already know it needs to be paired with something electronic. I need something that is simultaneously so vast that it fits a universe inside, and so small that its consumable. R Plus Seven is the single most intriguing pairing I can find with Larissa lai’s Breakneck speed of moving through earth. It’s mantling and dismantling, it’s parking lots, it’s streetlights tracers.
Canisia Lubrin’s The Dyzgraphxst and Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic”
This is perhaps a bit too literal. I’ve paired the most “Epic” and “All Encompassing” book of poetry I know, and have paired it with the most epic album. I cannot get enough of either, the book and the album both give you as much as you give them. The more effort you put into exploring them, the more rewarding the experience. They don’t pander, they don’t mess around, they are opaque, but brimming with clarity (let’s not conflate clarity with transparency- Lubrin is clear, but not transparent).
Khashayar “Kess” Mohammdi visits Brockton Writers Series via our YouTube channel on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Barrett, H. Nigel Thomas, and Victoria Mbabazi. Our guest speaker Caroline from ECW Press will help us with “Social Media 101 for Authors.”