Recipient profiles

Tarfia Faizullah

Fulbright, 2010, Bangledesh

Tarfia was born in Brooklyn, NY.  She received her Bachelors in Plan II and Italian from University of Texas at Austin in 2006. She then went on to complete his Masters in 2009 in Creative Writing, Poetry at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poetry has receives many awards such as Graduate Thomas B. Gay Poetry Award Winner, Academy of American Poets’ Catherine Joan Byrne Prize Winner and Ploughshares’ Cohen Award from Best Poem of the Year, all in 2009.

 Tarfia used her Fulbright grant to travel to Bangladesh to write poems about the lives of the birangona. These Bangladeshi women were taken as sex slaves by the West Pakistani army during the War of Independence in 1971. She hoped that speaking with Bangladeshis and becoming immersed in their culture would enrich her perspective to better write her poems about their conversations and experiences. 

From "Seam, Faizullah’s collection about those interviews, and about the experience of traveling to Bangladesh to conduct them, won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and (was) published on March 6. Faizullah’s collection translates the Pakistani army’s atrocities against the birangona into poetry. It also investigates, and attempts to come to terms with, Faizullah’s own heritage, identity, and experience. One of her interview poems begins: “Each week I pull hard / the water from the well, / bathe in my sari, wring / it out, beat it against / the flattest rocks—Are you / Muslim or Bengali, they / asked again and again. / Both, I said, both.