USEREVIEW 111 (Capsule): Allodynia

Manahil Bandukwala/ February 15, 2023/ Book Review, Capsule Review

Nisa Malli
Allodynia (Palimpsest Press, 2022)
ISBN 978-1-99029-306-1 | 80 pp | $19.95 CAD | BUY Here


Cover of Nisa Malli's Allodynia.

Allodynia (Palimpsest Press, 2022) is the debut poetry collection from bpNichol Chapbook Award-winning poet Nisa Malli. In Allodynia, Malli builds on her explorations of pain and illness, moving her poetry further into the sci-fi and speculative realms. The collection is divided into three sections: ‘Pain Log,’ ‘Ship’s Log,’ and ‘Pain Log.’ The poems from the two ‘Pain Log’ sections are similar in tone and contain poems from Malli’s chapbook, Remitting. These poems move through hospital rooms, surgeries and MRIs with vivid and striking imagery. Malli describes the experience of an MRI in ‘Magnetic Resonance Imaging,’ writing how “the world’s worst drone / band percusses your grave and your veins / are flushed with gadolinium / to glow like highways.” The middle section, ‘Ship’s Log,’ takes the poems into space, complete with a set of characters and world-building. The poems imagine alien and cyborg bodies on a desert planet. The poem, ‘There’s a ban on interspecies contact’ leads directly into the first lines of the poem: “but they can’t stop us from dreaming / of a less strict nation.” In ‘Autologous Transplant,’ the speaker “chose / evolution in our own / timeline. Editing // our bodies / with our siblings’ / bodies.” The sci-fi world Malli creates is immersive, and one of my favourite parts of the collection. Overall, Allodynia is a strong debut that builds on the anticipation from Malli’s chapbook.

Recommended excerpt:

‘Gastropod 4Gastropod’ (p. 41) is a surreal love poem full of tenderness and wit. Malli writes: “Why do all romantic metaphors sound predatory / in your language?” as she riffs off tropes of love poems using sci-fi and desert planet imagery. There is something sweet in lines such as “Of course I loved her boiled / blister eyes, her simple mono-mouth,” making this poem one of my favourites in the collection.

Manahil Bandukwala is a writer and visual artist. Her debut poetry collection is MONUMENT (Brick Books, 2022). More:

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