Christian Hawkey

ISBN-13: 9780900575129 | $18 | 108 pages | October 1, 2021

In his first book of poetry since the critically acclaimed and influential Ventrakl, Christian Hawkey’s Sift presents readers with fiercely resonant, interlingual inquiries into desire and power. Emerging out of Hawkey’s co-translation of the Arabic (with Marouane Zakhir) of Moroccan theorist Abdessalam Benabdelali, Sift calls attention to sifted speech, to what “catches in the throat,” and how language refuses easy transmission. Cinematic in its unfolding and lyrically explorative across multiple Englishes, Sift is a profound experiment in language by an everprovocative poet.


In his notes to the book-length poem Sift, Christian Hawkey observes how the project developed from a prompt: to sustain poetic engagement with the contemporary Moroccan philosopher Abdessalam Benabdelali, namely an essay from Benabdelali’s volume On Translation, a volume that Hawkey had begun to translate with Marouane Zakhir. While the process of translation obviously led to the generation of Hawkey’s newest book, it’s also what gives it shape. The eighty-eight-page poem is organized into several smaller movements set off by clusters of various translations of words that have Arabic origins. From the very first cluster that sets the poem in motion, Hawkey inhibits the impulse to create linguistic hierarchies within the clusters through their circular visual presentation, and, more to the point, spelling the English forms of words backwards, thus never fully translating them into the poem’s dominant language.

Ryan Bollenbach, Colorado Review

Like any great book, Sift challenges not only the way we read, but how we think, and throughout the course of the collection, through every inverted and non-English word, through every lyrical tangent, through every inquiry and resistance to the status quo, we learn something new about ourselves and how we look at the world. You might not find concrete answers here, but you will no doubt discover something more about who you are in relation to others, this planet, and most importantly to yourself, which is precisely what poetry as provoking and relevant as Hawkey’s is should always make one do.

Esteban Rodriguez, Heavy Feather Review 


In this extraordinary collection, Christian Hawkey shows us the infinite porosity of words is the infinite porosity of worlds. Here, the lingual is neither mono nor multi. Rather, the transit of language beckons the unbecoming of settler colonial geographies. The prose is delicate, tender even, yet Hawkey unflinchingly addresses the grievous violence of our times. Coveting this book like a beaming secret, I found myself sneaking off to pet it. Sift convinces us to cherish every yield.

—Jasbir K. Puar, author of The Right to Maim and Terrorist Assemblages

Created in the interstices of translation, Sift is a formally intricate work that demonstrates a brilliant engagement with the etymological trails (and trials) of language and translation and their interpenetration with empire, colonialism, history, politics, and parenting. I did not want to leave this poem that urgently names what needs to be is.

—M. NourbeSe Philip, author of Zong!

Sift is a remarkable, radical book-length poem that simultaneously coils and uncoils throughout its etymological journey, destabilizing linguistic coloniality. Circling around and between Arabic and English, the poem’s language is translingual, syntactically volatile, sonically playful, incantatory, mirror-like, and trans-marginated. Christian Hawkey’s Sift sings, laments, protests, and exists alongside Inger Christensen’s alphabet.

—Don Mee Choi, author of DMZ Colony


Christian Hawkey has written two full-length poetry collections: The Book of Funnels, which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and Citizen Of, both from Wave Books. He’s published several chapbooks, as well as the widely reviewed and celebrated cross-genre book Ventrakl (Ugly Duckling Presse). A collaborative bi-lingual erasure made with the German poet Uljana Wolf, Sonne from Ort, appeared in 2013 (kookbooks verlag, Berlin). A selection of Ilse Aichinger’s short prose, Bad Words, translated with Uljana Wolf, appeared in 2019 (Seagull Books). He’s received the Creative Capital Innovative Literature Award, a NEA grant, and a DAAD Artist-in-Berlin Fellowship. His own work has been translated into over a dozen languages.