Book Review: The Celox and the Clot by Hafsah Aneela Bashir

Cover of The Celox and The Clot

For International Women’s Day we asked members of the Library Student Team at Manchester University to share their thoughts on some of the relevant books in our library. This is the third of their reviews.

The Celox and the Clot – Hafsah Aneela Bashir AR.2.03/BAS

Reviewed by Zeenat Haji

‘My life is my own’ – Brown Bodies

The Celox and the Clot delves deep into South Asian culture exploring sensitive themes of war, family, and the unheard voices of women. With a strong focus on the conservative nature of many community-centred societies, Bashir acknowledges an internal conflict that is present in attempting to uphold familial expectations and an individual’s fight for autonomy. Building on this concept of conflict, throughout the collection, there is graphic detail illustrating the universal struggle that humanity experiences in accepting death through natural causes and the violence we inflict on others. Also prominent in the collection is Bashir’s authenticity as she does not remove herself from the harsh reality of war and death; instead, she embraces it. Hafsah Aneela Bashir’s collection offers a safe place for South Asians to question a society where secrecy runs rife. She successfully celebrates and discredits aspects of the culture, whilst her own voice is woven into the poems for a personal touch.  

The ‘Intro’ of the collection begins with the poem ‘Cumin Seeds’, where the familiar image of ‘gol gappeh’ invites the reader inside a South Asian household. The domestic nature of the scene then shifts to the first theme as the skin ‘easily bleeds’ from ‘bangles.’ It is quickly gathered that what should be a joyous occasion for young South Asian girls has a bittersweet reality.  

Part 1 is full of the details of war, and terrorism attacks such as those in Pakistan. Bashir accompanies these accounts with mothers’ narratives and their relationships with their children. Particularly in this first part of the collection there is a sense of urgency that Bashir portrays in her poems. Perhaps this is to demonstrate the lack of control individuals have when pushed into extreme circumstances such as war. The second part of the collection explores the injustices that many Muslims have to endure as a community, often ignored by the media that seeks to tear the community down. Bashir develops an explicit analysis through derogatory language such as ‘Paki terrorist’ [There Is No Such Thing As Islamophobia, p41] 

The third part of the collection is the longest, and in her poems such as ‘To You’ the Muslim reader can connect with Bashir, as the last line of the poem is the prayer read for when one incurs a loss. Bashir also demonstrates how love is observed through many lenses, troubled by disappointment and grief. There is a presence of stereotypes passed down through generations in the poem ‘Alu Paratha’ as a grandmother teaches her grandson that the women in his life will always provide food for him. This is a practice that will resonate with many modern South Asians and Bashir effectively attends to it. 

Finally, ‘Brown Bodies’ brings a close to the collection in what is perhaps the most progressive idea in South Asian culture, that women should own their lives. Removed from the expectations of a restrictive society, women group together to express themselves and it conveys their ‘courage.’ Despite all the distress the resounding message Bashir leaves the reader with is one filled with hope.   

Hafsah Aneela Bashir is a poet who graduated with an MA from the University of Leeds and who is well-versed in the complexity of South Asian culture. Her Pakistani heritage i evident in the language that she incorporates into her collection. Her debut collection, The Celox and the Clot, inherently implies that something man-made such as ‘Celox’ can heal but also be destructive.