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I Cannot Be Good (Until you say it)

The much-anticipated debut collection by the winner of the Outspoken Performance Poetry Prize: a tender meditation on queerness and Islam.


Intricately weaving Quranic verse, psychology, and the hip-hop soundtrack of their childhood, Sanah's poems reach for divinity in the queer body; an archive that refuses erasure.

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These poems traverse unruly emotional and physical landscapes, Whiteness, islamophobia, homophobia, masculinity, intergenerational suffering, suicidality and the politics of therapeutic processes. In these pages, belief and unbelief, goodness and badness, the material and spiritual are intertwined, reclaiming queer love and desire as holy.

How are we incarcerated by others' gazes? Who gets to be good in a society built upon hierarchy? How might we embrace each other's madnesses? Sanah Ahsan asks questions that travel to the heart of our humanness, bending the lines between psychologist and client to show us the sacred nature of our wounds. These poems kneel to the messiness of being alive, building altars to complication and presence.Refusing binaries of gender or religious doctrine, I cannot be good until you say it finds what is to be revered in the grey spaces of morality, advancing imagination and self-compassion as sites of communion.This debut collection is a call to prayer, fearlessly complicating what is good, and what is god.

Advance Praise for I Cannot Be Good

When I speak of the word “sacred”, Sanah Ahsan’s I cannot be good until you say it will forever instantly spring to mind. Each poem in this collection is a jewel crafted with such deep care - the musicality of the verse, the impact of memory on the language, the precision of themes like family and memory, sexuality and religion all blend together to create this masterpiece. An honour to have read this book, I am forever changed after reading its beauty

- Nikita Gill

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