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Against the Frame (5th Anniversary Edition) by Azad Ashim Sharma

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“I am a muslim not a terrorist” is Azad Ashim Sharma’s opening gambit in Against the Frame. The book’s geography is vast; encompassing Meccan sands, the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Barking, East London. Sharma opens brand-new avenues for political poetry in short bursts of incandescent rage, washing his hands of the burden of catering to, in Sean Bonney’s words, “a small racist island” and writing, brilliantly, the truth.


PRAISE for Against the Frame:

Against the frame, ‘where trauma is as ubiquitous as carbon’, Azad Ashim Sharma writes in a tellurian and hypercultural language of shards. In lieu of identity’s ‘neurosis’, we have many orthogonal points of the ‘I’ lain aslant upon lyric’s imitation heartbeats, ‘affirmative / in sabotage’. This is a book ‘In search of nuance’, a book which complicates our complacent short hands for art, casts all forms of reducible being into drift and revision. A book of exposure, questioning, mutability, essaying. Poetry is here in myriad as force: not to be stilled or stilted; but to want, demand, desire, proliferate and thrive at the stress point where ‘every breath breaks the law’.

— Maria Sledmere, The Luna Erratum


Azad Sharma’s poetry has had its application to be risk-averse denied. It can’t be risk-averse, because it must careen across ungovernable mountainous regions at high speed. The shocks of Abu Ghraib shift the ground from which it headbutts dialectics. The thing to avoid, it says, is exhibition. Free radicals knock electrons and elections onto the next thing in “the algebra of the ballot box.” The point is not the picture but the frame and its surround, even the white gallery walls themselves cracked in the breaking of this frame. One of the frames we’re talking about is “the speaker of the poem,” a “speaker” denied by the UK Government’s 2011 Prevent strategy, speakers nonetheless announce themselves from every fissure. Here allyship is for the allied forces, even the negation of the “against” can’t become “for”. Here each poem is “a kiss” which looms out the underpass of the linebreak to suddenly become “of death”. Be careful – because this book won’t be.

— Robert Kiely, simmering of a declarative void


Azad Ashim Sharma’s words are those of a visionary. This epic narrative expels a prophetic energy: meditative and frenzied, philosophical and violent. Sharma’s poetry is laced with musicality, striking the drum of political, social and cultural injustice. It looks back, it looks forward, it looks to the now. It is ‘a manifesto for hope’, galvanising the reader to fight against those suffocating systems of power. It screams for change.

— Karenjit Sandhu,


Who said difficult language could not be beautiful?
— Lisa Jeschke, The Anthology of Poems by Drunk Women


Sharma’s work brilliantly refuses the tired tropes that constrict the contemporary (insert non-white race) poet, whilst simultaneously exploring every exploited piece of subject matter the neoliberal market seeks to align itself with. The intimacy built between author and reader in his stories of brutality wade between the loving exasperation of an old friend, and decadent, Scorpionic honesty. Brace for tough love incarnate.
— Marissa Malik, Artist and Astrologer


In some respects this book is a fragmented piece of work, one that consciously evades singularity, deliberately finding itself at the interstices of composition and decomposition, worlding and unworlding, the collective and the individual in constant throes of untethered riffs and acerbic polemic. Challenging and refreshing, one finds themselves crossing the threshold of sociopoetic bliss and late modernist reverberations. Read on and let the bass thwack of the tabla splinter your resonant frames. 
— Kashif Sharma-Patel, relief i willed it

Broken Sleep Books



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