The islands of an archipelago are isolated above sea level but attached underwater; connected yet separate. archipelago, the debut poetry collection from Laila Malik, traces fragments of family, becoming and unbecoming against the shifting shorelines of loss, multigenerational migration, and (un)belonging.
Malik's lyrical poems intertwine histories of exile and ecological devastation. Beginning with a coming of age in the 80s and 90s between Canada, the Arabian Gulf, East Africa and Kashmir, they subvert conventions of lineage, instead drawing on the truths of inter-ethnic histories amidst sparse landscapes of deserts, oceans, and mountains. They question why the only certainties of "home" are urgency and impossibility.
At its core, archipelago is a letter to the daughters who come before and after, a quiet disclosure of barbed ancestral legacies that only come into focus through poetry.
About the Author
Laila Malik is a desisporic settler and writer living in Adobigok, traditional land of Indigenous communities that include the Anishinaabe, Seneca, Mohawk Haudenosaunee, and Wendat. Her work has been widely published in literary magazines and journals, including Contemporary Verse 2, Canthius, The New Quarterly, Ricepaper, Qwerty, Room,Sukoon, The Bangalore Review, and Archetype. Malik's essays have been longlisted for four different creative nonfiction contests and she was a fellow at the Banff Centre for Creative Arts in 2021 for her novel in progress. archipelago is her debut poetry collection.
"In Laila Malik's archipelago, we face the future like we face the sea, or the desert: any great expanse we try to love, cross, or become. Malik's vocabulary is a bridge—littered with secrets, inside jokes, careful references—that carries us over various landscapes, oceans, the wreckages of capitalism, colonialism and climate collapse." —Sanna Wani, author of My Grief, the Sun
"Grief can make an island of anyone: these poems can bring you to new shores.” —Nasser Hussain, author of SKY WRI TEI NGS
“There is so much movement in archipelago, but the meditations on home vis-a-vis the Gulf are most exciting for their rarity—this may be the first full-length poetry collection in English to take the Gulf itself as its subject matter." —Noor Naga, Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlisted–author of If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English
"Malik’s poems carry the weight of unearthed treasures, ancient fragments of wisdom that researchers might devote their careers to piecing together. It is the deft juxtaposition between the ‘you’ and the ‘I’ and Malik’s culturally specific language that makes some poems, like ‘crooked elbows,’ so enthralling.” —Zoe Binder.
"In her evocative debut collection, Laila Malik draws on memory, not only personal recollection but ancestral and cultural history. Migration has defined her family for generations." —Toronto Star.