In our first edition, THE BABY RE-IMAGINED (POETS EDITION), we assigned a poem to a track off of Samia’s debut; to celebrate 1-year of Honey, we’re back to soundtracking with 12 poems from 12 different poets (11 different than last time!). This task was harder than The Baby — for the past year, we’ve been sending poems back-and-forth, analyzing lyrics, and crowdsourcing, trying to find the perfect fits…a week or so after the anniversary, here we are. Samia has matured as a writer, exploring less universal themes in her work. But, we’ve also grown as writers, readers, and lovers of art, and so we were determined to invest in the craft of this album and this poetry, to draw out all of the complex, beautiful emotions. We hope you enjoy :)
TRACK 1: Kill Her Freak Out — From anonymous answers to: what is your favorite memory of last summer? What did you like/hate about your first crush? Write something to someone you miss. by Sennah Yee
“Kill Her Freak Out,” IS a song that puts a lot of trust into the listeners. In a letter sent out with the pre-ordered vinyl editions of Honey, for this song, Samia wrote “I wrote this about withholding and then exploding. It’s not even about jealousy.” This withholding-then-exploding is present in the chorus, with the drawn out “I’ve never been this bad” followed by the quickly uttered, “Can I tell you something?”, again slow admission: “I’ve never felt so unworthy of loving.” Sennah Yee’s FROM ANONYMOUS ANSWERS TO: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEMORY OF LAST SUMMER? WHAT DID YOU LIKE/HATE ABOUT YOUR FIRST CRUSH? WRITE SOMETHING TO SOMEONE YOU MISS,” is engaged with the loss that comes from withholding. It, too, builds a trust with the reader in what it is willing to reveal. The girl in the poem does not get access to the speaker, but the reader does — a quick intimacy. I can hear Yee’s lines “The first time we slept in the same bed, I wanted her to have wanted me more. She called me ‘the one that got away’ even though she always left me behind” fitting so well just before Samia’s own admission. The prose poem is a perfect complement to such a narrative song, a form that often facilitates stream-of-consciousness, lets us jump from space to thought like a dream. Yee’s poem ends on an ugly feeling: “I walked into the lake the morning after. It was hot and my feet were dust. My skin was sore. Hate takes a long time to soak up,” to matching the last half of the chorus, “I hope you marry the girl from your hometown / And I’ll fucking kill her / And I’ll fucking freak out”. (SF)
Poem excerpted from How Do I Look?, Metatron Press 2017.
TRACK 2: Charm You — Worlds I Create by Saba Keramati
I love the way Saba Keramati’s “Worlds I Create” dismantles compartmentalization; the two columns build completely different environments until the details blend and breakdown the correlation, followed by the admission: “It was never necessarily a secret. / At the same time, it was.” I like the way the poem sort of resolves itself away from restraint in those closing lines; the second admission,“I reach out to her when I miss her / (miss women).” to lead into the close, a warm culmination of the “worlds I create”; it’s sweet and tender, a better ending than I thought the speaker would imagine. “Charm You”, similarly, has a sort of formal reveal, crafted through restraint. Samia builds little worlds to hold her romance, two verses worth of musing on each scenario. With no formal chorus, instead, Samia gives a piece of the outro to close each pair, eventually building to: “I don’t wanna charm anyone this time / I don’t wanna make anybody mine / Mostly it’s just I don’t wanna end up crying / I don’t wanna charm you”. What I love about this closing is that, similarly to “Worlds I Create” in which those realities collapse to build the final one, “Charm You” is essentially a love song that decides it doesn’t want to be anymore, the slow reveal of this hesitant thesis. In Keramati’s poem, the speaker could no longer keep these “worlds” apart. “Charm You”’s build is similar, in which the giddiness of potential love transforms to an anxious-but-wandering admission, making this song and poem beautiful, inverse sets. (SF)
Poem excerpted from HAD, September 28, 2020.
TRACK 3: Pink Balloon — Hyposubject by Tracy Fuad
“Pink Balloon” chronicles the loss of a friendship, tracing the simultaneous melancholic longing for and alienation from someone you once called your kin. Tracy Fuad’s poem “Hyposubject” draws out a similar interplay of longing and alienation, though its subject remains less defined. Both pieces walk us through a sort of plain and ordinary sadness, all the more tragic because of its ordinariness. Samia pauses for a moment after she sings “Sometimes when you sing to me/ I still believe I know you,” letting us sit with the disappointment and distance this moment evokes before moving into the chorus: “How am I supposed to want to hear it anymore?” In Fuad’s poem, she brings us to a similar place of loss, the loss of something utterly familiar and yet fundamentally unknown and unknowable. She writes: “I thought I’d always known you. I thought my teeth to be cut from your teeth.” When Samia sings “Sometimes I speak on your behalf,” I think of Fuad’s lines too– to share a mouth, a voice, is the ultimate signal of closeness, though it can never be true. There is a shared sense of alienation from the self in these pieces too. Samia’s “Sweating like an acrobat” and Fuad’s “I was an invalid user.” both ask what it means for us to perform personhood for the world around us, or even for the ones we love most dearly who can’t love us back the way we need. (SS)
Poem excerpted from Paperbag №14, December 2022.
TRACK 4: Mad at Me by Samia & papa mbye — Pilgrim Bell by Kaveh Akbar
Truthfully, this was one of the hardest tracks to find a mate for. Its catchy poppy melody and exceedingly relatable lyrics obscure the fact that it’s engaging themes that are perhaps underexplored in poetic form. Samia oscillates between the repetitive incantations: “Are you still/ Mad at me” and “I don’t wanna know, I don’t,” revealing both an underlying anxiety and a rejection of the need to be liked. She describes the song as “cosplaying” a feeling of confidence she hasn’t actually experienced before. The same might be said of Kaveh Akbar’s short poem “Pilgrim Bell,” which reads in its entirety:
To be forgiven.
A sturdier soul.
Every person I’ve met.
Has been small enough.
In my eye.
A forceful poem, its false confidence wavers in the context of the broader collection, which frequently returns us to the speaker’s vulnerability and tenderness. The punctuation in Akbar’s poem also suggests finality while simultaneously undermining it, placing awkward stops in the middle of clear confident statements that betray the fiction of this confidence. Like Akbar’s poem, Samia’s lyrics here are ultimately a fairly sparse set of repeated phrases, suggesting that it’s harder to wear the confidence cosplay for a long time than we might like to believe. (SS)
Poem excerpted from Pilgrim Bell by Kaveh Akbar, Graywolf Press 2021.
TRACK 5: Sea Lions — syzygy by Samia Saliba
Sea Lions is about the fallout of a friendship; it is as mournful as it is strange, three distinct sections atonal to each other — appropriate to capture the disorientation of losing someone who was prominent in your life. The music video features Samia and another girl dressed in Puritan garb, eerie and glitching and manic through the instrumental break. This is how girlhood feels, I think. Samia (Saliba)’s poem, “syzygy,” too, is about the fallout of a friendship, framing itself with an X-Files episode about teen girls who kill people because the stars are making them weird; this, too, is girlhood, I think. “Sea Lions” begins in resignation; Samia sings, “You said when I come on the radio / It makes you wanna die / Well, if I shut up / Can I come inside?” The last sung line before the instrumental break, a collective “Why is your phone going to voicemail?” feels like a perfect transition to where Samia’s poem resolves into resignation and lets it crescendo, an end built from rising apology — ”i’m sorry / i never opened that email. sorry i did. i’m sorry / we never tried psychedelics together. i’m sorry we / told you to break up with your girlfriend, sorry we / convinced you she was a vampire. sorry we were / right :/” I love that little emoticon, something cheeky before we return to the mourning — a light irony so in line with the tone of Finnerty’s work. The continued apology encapsulates so much, moving from the mundane to the speculative, from what didn’t happen to what so specifically could have — it is a beautiful complement to “Sea Lions”’s lament. (SF)
Poem excerpted from HAD, August 15, 2023.
TRACK 6: To Me It Was — Years of Worry by Wendy Xu
Is there are a place more contemplative than the porch? Preferably in the evening, when it’s kind of warm and the fireflies are out. “Years of Worry” and “To Me It Was” feel like two sides of the same conversation, this gentle setting. “To Me It Was” is about reassurance — whether it’s directed toward someone else or the singer herself, each verse is an assured reminiscence that everything was okay, even if it was weird, and everything will be OK, too. “Years of Worry” carries the anxiety that “To Me It Was” hopes to quell, but grasps for light along the way; Xu writes, “ This and other acts of longing / keep me up at night: that while one person / suffers the past alone / the world is melting towards us” calling to mind Samia’s line, “There might not be a second coming / That doesn’t mean it was all for nothing.” So much of this poem feels like a beautiful complement to the earlier part of the bridge, with the lines towards the end: “A person must speak their love / to others in a room / of the world while it stands. / Thank god it is still possible to drive / across America chasing / some music”; this prayer, reminiscent of Samia’s characteristic environment building — friends, movie, it makes it worth it. Xu finishes the poem in reassurance, finding and asking for it; “I have suitcases / good for something better / than the phone. Show me a newer / urgent kind of knowing.” and Samia’s song ends on a voicemail from her grandmother, loving, comforting, reassurance. Here are, to who the speaker confides in, two strengthening notes to choose from. (SF)
Poem excerpted from Conduit 25 2014.
TRACK 7: Breathing Song — Cliffhanger by Hala Alyan
Who else could share in the raw emotionality of “Breathing Song” but Hala Alyan? This poem and song work off each other in both form and content, recalling experiences of sexual violence with honesty while still maintaining some distance that conveys the difficulty of the act of retelling. The distortion of Samia’s voice in autotune mirrors the fragmented sentences of Alyan’s poem, each replicating the dissociative feeling of reliving traumas. Both writers also render the emotional complexity of trauma in compelling and important ways throughout their pieces. Alyan’s line “I couldn’t forgive him/ so I apologized instead have you ever done that” is one of these moments that leaves you aching, much like Samia’s “And I loved coming over/ cause it felt like dying.” These emotional complexities are further drawn out as each speaker struggles to believe themself and resist the narrative control imposed by their abuser. When Samia is asked by a friend about her experience of sexual violence, she says “So I tried to tell him/ Mostly from your side/ And then I stopped breathing.” Alyan, also recounting her experience to a third party, says “I leave this out too how I still defend him how a wound/ like that over a decade becomes a kind of heart.” Both end with a force — Alyan’s “I knew it was you all along do you understand I knew” and Samia’s incantation of “No, no, no” — that remains open-ended and unresolved, cut off in the middle of a scream. (SS)
Poem excerpted from The Offing, February 7, 2018.
TRACK 8: Honey — The World’s Loneliest Whale Sings the Loudest Song & Other Confessions by Noor Hindi,
“I wanna go to the beach and die on the beach / I wanna be a mermaid” is probably the line from Honey that gets stuck in my head most obsessively. When picking the poem(s) for this song, Samia and I joked well, of course, all Arab girls want to die on the beach — but, isn’t there something to looking to the ocean when processing traumas? The opening line of Noor Hindi’s “The World’s Loneliest Whale Sings the Loudest Song & Other Confessions”, “I won’t make metaphors out of fish. If I have to die, I choose the ocean,” agrees. There’s a whimsy in “Honey” that cuts intensity of its partner, “Breathing Song,” more engaged with the fuzzy feelings of drunkenness, the song parsing its way between the warm and the bad. The opening verse of “Honey” is bouncy, loving, but a slight shift with “Nobody’s gonna tell you who you are”, leads us to the deflective chorus “It’s all honey, honey”. Honey, in Hindi’s poem, too, serves as a sort of de-escalation; she writes, “Research suggests loneliness increases cardiovascular disease. When my cousin died, she died alone. When the world collapsed around Darwish, he wrote of coffee and sex. When you held my body close to yours, I thought of clementines, sweet citrus, all the world’s lemons we’d temper with honey,” this rise soothed by honey before we return to the driving theme, “The world’s loneliest whale sings the loudest song.” The bridge before the final chorus alludes perhaps most clearly to the story of assault in “Breathing Song”; “All you can do from this hotel room is fantasize / All you can do when he needs you is close your eyes”. The music swells, the chorus extending into a more delirious repetition of “It’s all honey”. Hindi’s poem ends in a repetitive build, too, making a litany for its close, a turn to the speculative that emulates the delirium of Samia’s chorus: “Studies suggest drowning lasts 1–3 minutes. But I’ll never stop grieving. Scientists are still searching for the 52-hertz whale. But I swear he’s here. In my bedroom. And I can hear him. And he’s telling me I can stop.” The narrative frames of both take over in the end, no other departures available. (SF)
Poem excerpted from Split This Rock
IN THE LITTLE MERMAID 2 MELODY UNDOES THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989) by Summer Farah
Summer was workshopping this poem years ago at the writing workshop where we met and it’s long been a favorite of mine, a beautiful rhythmic chronicle of displacement and the urge to return through analogies to The Little Mermaid. While Summer’s poem centers around a longing to return to Palestine, to the spaces and homes and landscapes her parents remember but she cannot, Samia’s song traces an altogether different landscape of trauma that weaves throughout the album. But both the poem and the song, in all the sadness that inhabits them, bring in dissonant, poppy elements, from Summer’s movie references to Samia’s upbeat chorus, that make them feel all the more real. Both also bring in scraps of other music; Summer’s emotional repetition of “i need a quiet place so i can scream” draws from Mitski’s “I want you,” while Samia sings along to Porches’ song “Country” with the line “Can you do no harm?” Like Hindi’s poem, the emotional center of “In The Little Mermaid 2” is echoed in the line “I wanna go to the beach and die on the beach / I wanna be a mermaid.” But the most salient parallel to me comes from the way these pieces inhabit space and quiet. Samia inhabits the ocean because “From under here all you can hear/ is the distant boom of the hell’s angels/ from under here all you can fear/ is being saved and being wakeful,” while Summer is searching for a quiet place to scream and lands, like the mermaid daughter born outside the ocean, “underwater anyway.” (SS)
Poem excerpted from The Rumpus, “We Are More,” July 6, 2021.
TRACK 9: Nanana — palestinian handshake emoji spiders by Fargo Nissim Tbakhi
One thing I immediately loved about this song is the way Samia calls to many of her loved ones by name, giving us an intimate cast of characters that form the emotional core of this song. Fargo Nissim Tbakhi’s “palestinian handshake emoji spiders,” written for friend and fellow poet (also featured on our The Baby list!) Jess Rizkallah, does something similar. Throughout the poem, Jess’s voice offers notes of wisdom like “jess tells me that hope and faith are different.” This mirrors the cluster of beloveds that populate Samia’s lyrics, offering cryptic but beautiful lines like “Chris said that God gives you another brick/ For the wall each time your heart breaks.” Samia’s line “Some people see a cobweb hanging in the window/ But you see a constellation” also mimics Tbakhi’s fixation on spiders, his ruminations which paint the creatures as dangerous but mundane, friends and omens. He writes “outside my window there are several spiders a/ kinship of them sharing one web. from them i learn violence and homemaking.” This kinship of spiders could be Samia’s constellation, which is also a constellation of the loved ones who reshape her perspective. Though these pieces diverge in many ways, they are both deeply invested in the possibility that emerges from friendship and in envisioning a different world through the eyes and values of the ones we love. (SS)
Poem excerpted from Afternoon Visitor, Issue 2, Fall 2020.
TRACK 10: Amelia — drunk poetica by Samantha Fain
Samia is so, so good at writing about friendships, vividly rendering the good and the bad — ”Amelia” makes me feel alive, makes me want nothing more than to be with people I love and make stuff; so, of course, what better type of poem to pair it with than an ars poetica? Samantha Fain’s “drunk poetica,” alive, loving, and fun! could easily live in the scene built by the third verse of “Amelia”. Samia sings, “Walking into the middle of the party / I’m writing a poem, somebody stop me”, and Fain’s “holy shit when the heat hits me / i kiss every warm body / & whitman the shit out of the grass.” is a perfect mirror. “Oh my god there’s nothing quite like doing / What you came to do / Percolating! Breathing! Dancing! Dying!” is a perfect exclamation — finding a groove when making art is an all-encompassing pleasure. As Fain’s verse builds, and more and more of the mundane gets poem’d; I love, her use of exclamation points, so in line with the simple exhilaration in “Amelia”. Samia sings, “Percolating! Breathing! Dancing! Dying!” into the chorus “Huh, delight / To live another night” as the song ends; Fain’s second to last verse goes:
& my god i love the world right now
& i love my clothes & all my friends
& i love poems & drunk shimmers
that go on forever
like &&& & never end &
That hanging ampersand! So analogous to the sort of muffled repetition of “Delight,” sweetly spoken, the possibilities endless. (SF)
Poem excerpted from Peach Mag, Season 6, 2021–2022.
TRACK 11: Dream Song — Overgrown by Jane Wong
“Overgrown” may be the dreamiest poem I know, so of course it felt like an obvious choice here, but its resonances with Samia’s tender final track go beyond the surface aesthetics. Both the overgrown garden of Wong’s poem and the tired, sunburnt, Spanish-moss filled landscape of Samia’s lyrics are spaces full of wonder, but they are also spaces where our speakers find a powerful sense of safety and security. Wong imagines “the garden in which no one asks ‘are you sure’ or ‘what did he ever do to deserve’ or ‘what’s the context’” while Samia calls out a response to the traumas centered in “Breathing Song”: “I believe you/ and I know why.” Each writer draws out the feeling of healing through round, cyclical imagery — Wong’s “the garden in which desire finds itself on a carousel again, spinning and swelling with string lights like pearl onions” to Samia’s “Ferris wheel, sun in the sky” and “CPR, an iron lung/ feedback loop.” They even both evoke the cycles of generational trauma and healing through the figure of a dream daughter; when Samia sings “You can see it in your daughter’s eyes/ that’s the purpose and the price,” I hear Wong’s voice echoing: “the garden in which my dream daughter sees her reflection in a frog-footed pond and thinks I look exactly like my mother who looks exactly like her mother and so on and so on.” (SS)
Poem excerpted from West Branch Review 97, Fall 2021 Digital Issue.
Summer Farah is a Palestinian American writer from California. The author of the chapbook I could die today and live again (Game Over Books, 2024), she organizes with the Radius of Arab American Writers and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She is calling on you to recommit yourself to the liberation of the Palestinian people each day.
Samia Saliba (she/her) is calling on you to join the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and all oppressed peoples globally, from wherever you are, in whatever material way you can. To learn from Palestinian resistance the everyday practice of refusal. She is writing from somewhere in Los Angeles, where she is a PhD student in American Studies & Ethnicity. Her poems appear in Apogee, AAWW, Mizna, and elsewhere, and her debut chapbook is forthcoming with Game Over Books in 2025. Find her on twitter @sa_miathrmoplis.