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The Emma Press





Paisley is the debut pamphlet of poems by Rakhshan Rizwan. With an introduction by Leila Aboulela.

“Her mother’s letters arrive on yellowing papyrus from Lucknow and mimic the way she speaks: using the formal address app instead of tum. She lifts the affections, admonishments from the page and holds them close, smelling the black India ink and jasmine scent of her mother’s hand; she sees the breaks in her train of thought, marked by blots of stray ink when she held the pen stationary. She washes down her mother’s words of sandalwood and melancholy with warm tea. Her unborn child kicks the quaint figures of speech and sucks the cloying Urdu with its small, webbed hands. Honeyed phrases of an exiled language like savoury sweetmeats that a traveller brings back, wrapped in an oily newspaper, a little cold but still fragrant with a hint of saffron, a caress of cardamom, from across the border, from busy markets in Delhi, in Amritsar, in Ludhiana. Names, so familiar, of cities now invisible.”

– ‘Partition’, from Paisley

Shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the 2018 Michael Marks Awards.

Page count: 36

Publication date: 28th September 2017

Paperback ISBN: 9781910139783

Rakhshan Rizwan

Rakhshan Rizwan works as an Acquisitions Editor. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature from Utrecht University. Her poetry pamphlet, Paisley (The Emma Press, 2017) was shortlisted for the Saboteur Award and the Michael Marks Poetry Prize. Her collection of children’s poetry, My Sneezes are Perfect (The Emma Press, 2021) documents the difficulties of moving countries, and living through a pandemic from the perspective of a young child. Her book Kashmiri Life Narratives: Human Rights, Pleasure, and the Local Cosmopolitan (Routledge, 2020) looks at how Kashmiri authors use innovative languages of happiness to do human rights advocacy. Her writing has appeared in Aaduna, Nimrod, Postcolonial Text and Blue Lyra Review, among others. She is on the editorial team of the children’s poetry journal Tyger Tyger Magazine. She is from Lahore, Pakistan, has lived in Germany and the Netherlands, and currently lives in the Bay Area of North California, US.


Rakhshan Rizwan’s debut pamphlet simmers with a poised, driving anger. Drawing on the rich visual and material culture of her home region, Rizwan unpacks and offers critical comment on the vexed issues of class, linguistic and cultural identity – particularly for women – in the context of Pakistan and South Asia.


‘Rakhshan Rizwan impresses with an alert and peripatetic poetic consciousness.’ Sabotage Reviews

‘There is fierce energy here, and uncompromising intensity.’ Sphinx

‘A striking debut collection which evokes the rich culture and history of Rizwan’s native Lahore. Themes of belonging, migration and displacement abound, as Rizwan examines the split linguistic self of the migrant: “My voice is the mirror that breaks in Urdu”. The patterns of her homeland are ever-present: “in a new country, let us dream of different paisleys”. Combining free verse and complex ghazals, this is a powerful exploration of the role of women in Pakistan and beyond.’ – PBS Bulletin

Additional information

Dimensions 12.9 × 19.8 cm

Print, eBook

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