MONUMENT is a conversation with Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal, which moves her legacy beyond the Taj Mahal.
MONUMENT upturns notions of love, monumentalisation, and empire by exploring buried facets of Mumtaz Mahal's story. The collection layers linear time and geographical space to chart the continuing presence of historical legacies. It considers what alternate futures could have been possible. Who are we when we continue to make the same mistakes? Beyond distance, time, and boundaries, what do we still carry?
"A profound evocation of unbelonging." — Bhanu Kapil
"Bandukwala is a lyric truth-teller." — Farzana Doctor
"A sensitive, urgent, astonishing, masterful, and necessary debut." — Doyali Islam
About the author
Manahil Bandukwala is a writer and visual artist originally from Pakistan and now settled in Canada. In 2021, she was shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award. She works as Coordinating Editor for Arc Poetry Magazine, and is Digital Content Editor for Canthius. She is a member of Ottawa-based collaborative writing group VII. MONUMENT is her first book.
"Manahil Bandukwala's MONUMENT is a profound evocation of unbelonging. What is it, for example, to 'unbelong' as a mode of consciousness (observing one's life from 'a vantage point')? Bandukwala approaches this question through the senses, exploring vectors from 'the incorporeal part of you' to deeply felt iterations of desire: the 'question of intimacy.' In one astonishing poem, '1628,' the word 'Empire' is licked from a lover's back, leaving the taste of ash and something rotting in the mouth: 'On your back I kissed empire then / smudged it off, tasted dirt on tongue tip / worms crawled their way out of the holes / of my body.' Grief and need comprise a 'love language as architecture,' in this deeply felt and brilliant debut collection." — Bhanu Kapil
"Bandukwala is a lyric truth-teller, exposing the secrets of a royal family corrupted by violence. Through intimate conversations with the spirit of Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal, we view a life cut short and fashioned into a false narrative. Now I want to return to Agra with MONUMENT in hand so I too might 'walk the labyrinth / and listen to your footsteps/echoing.'" — Farzana Doctor
"I will not call Manahil Bandukwala's MONUMENT beautiful—not because it is not so, but because starting and ending with this adjective would be an insult in the context of lines such as 'I saw his love start / and end with your beauty.' Gendering, conquest, structural violence, power, history—how one hand has managed to embrace the weight and wide sweep of these materials feels incomprehensible. Bandukwala's language is lushly lyrical and profoundly intimate, with a control that reveals mastery. Keenly thoughtful and wholly restorative, MONUMENT is 'an empire overgrown with hibiscus and sunflower,' reminding us that it is 'not too late to teach of love's abundance.' A sensitive, urgent, astonishing, masterful, and necessary debut." — Doyali Islam