Image Alt
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 is a writer and scholar working at the intersection of creative and scholarly practice. She is a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with Utrecht University in the Netherlands and has a PhD in Comparative Literature. She is the winner of the Judith Khan Memorial Prize for Poetry (2015), and her debut pamphlet Paisley (The Emma Press, 2017) was shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards as well as the Michael Marks Awards. Her poems have appeared in Nimrod, Blue Lyra Review, Bird's Thumb, aaduna and Postcolonial Text. She is the author of Kashmiri Life Narratives (Routledge), a research monograph which explores the intersections between human rights and literature in the Valley of Kashmir. She speaks four languages and is originally from Pakistan but has lived in Germany, the Netherlands and currently lives in the Bay Area in the United States.


Rakhshan Rizwan’s debut collection 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

You may also like…
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter:

powered by MailChimp!