Poem of the Week | June 06, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Death-Spot” by Nazifa Islam.

Nazifa Islam is the author of the poetry collections Searching for a Pulse (Whitepoint Press, 2013) and Forlorn Light: Virginia Woolf Found Poems (Shearsman Books, 2021). Her poems have appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, DIAGRAM, The Journal, The Believer, and Beloit Poetry Journal among other publications. She earned her MFA at Oregon State University. You can find her @nafoopal and learn more about her Sylvia Plath found poems by visiting her website.



            a found poem: The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I am Lazarus coming out of the grave —
wiser, strange
suicidal — and I want desperately

to have the sensation of being
creative flood my winter-pallor skin.

Being dead annihilates
the imagination;
there is too much that is new.

I just need paper against the scars
on my cheek.
I need to empty myself of fear.

God doesn’t need poems
but I do.


Author’s Note

“Death-Spot” is part of a series of Sylvia Plath found poems focused on the bipolar experience. To write these poems, I select a paragraph from a Plath text — so far, either The Bell Jar, Letters Home, or The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath — and only use the words from that paragraph to create a poem. I essentially write a poem while doing a word search using Sylvia Plath as source material. I don’t allow myself to repeat words, add words, or edit the language for tense or any other consideration. These poems are simultaneously defined by both Plath’s choices with language as well as my own. “Death-Spot” is a meditation on bipolar depression and the creative impulse that often accompanies — for me, at least — an episode. When I feel grey and withered and stunted, writing offers a kind of balm in the face of a bleak reality.