Solmaz Sharif

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Solmaz Sharif
BornSolmaz Sharif
1983 (age 40–41)
Istanbul, Turkey
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
New York University
Notable worksLook

Solmaz Sharif (Persian: سولماز شریف; born 1983) is an Iranian-American poet. Her debut poetry collection, Look, was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English at UC Berkeley.

Early life and education[edit]

Sharif was born in Istanbul, Turkey as her parents were in the process of emigrating from Iran to the United States; her parents had studied in the US during the 1970s but had returned to Iran during the Iranian Revolution.[2] Newborn Sharif and her family settled first in Texas, where her father finished his studies; the family moved again a few years later to Birmingham, Alabama, where her mother finished her bachelor's degree. After her mother graduated the family finally settled in Los Angeles, California, when Sharif was 11 years old.[2] While living in Los Angeles, Sharif was exposed to the largest Iranian population outside of Iran itself, but was ostracized by her Iranian peers upon her arrival because of her family's struggle assimilating.[3]

At sixteen years old, Sharif attended an Iranian Feminist Conference, facilitated by Angela Davis.[3] Here, she discovered the phrase and label "women of color", which Davis used to refer to the audience of women before her. This label was a punctum moment for Sharif, as this is the phrase that she had been searching for to identify with, and to embrace.

Wherever she went, Sharif felt out of place, never feeling included or acknowledged by those around her. This feeling of exile is one of the bigger influences of her "exilic intellectual" prose: looking at something from the outside so as to "question and interrogate", a stance Sharif also brings to works of art or literature.

Sharif received her BA degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and her MFA degree from New York University.[4]

Career and recognition[edit]

In 2011, Sharif was awarded the "Discovery"/Boston Review Poetry Prize. Sharif received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2013.[5] She has also received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Stanford University, and the Poetry Foundation. Sharif won the Theodore H. Holmes '51 and Bernice Holmes National Poetry Prize.[6] Sharif has given numerous readings around the US, such as the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.[7] Sharif was one of the judges for 2023 National Book Award for Poetry.[8]

Look, Sharif’s debut collection of poetry, was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry, a finalist for the 2017 PEN Open Book Award, one of The New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2016, a Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2016, a Washington Post Best Poetry Collection of 2016, one of The New Yorker‘s Books We Loved in 2016, and one of the San Francisco Chronicle‘s 100 Recommended Books of 2016.[9]

As of 2023, Sharif teaches at UC Berkeley.[10] Previously she was an Assistant Professor of English at Arizona State University.[11] Before that Sharif was a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University where she had previously been a Stegner Fellow.[4]

Influences and themes[edit]

Some early influences include poems by Walt Whitman, which her mother would read to her as bedtime stories. While studying at UC Berkeley, she was part of the People for Poetry program and studied June Jordan's works. More current influences include Audre Lorde's essay, "Uses of Erotics: Erotics as Power," Hannah Weiner's Code Poems, Muriel Rukeyser's The Book of the Dead, Martha Collins’s Blue Front, and M. Nourbese Philip's Zong!'.'[3] She also cited June Jordan as an influence.[3]

Look, Sharif's first book, "asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable losses of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech."[12] Look draws on the U.S. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, and challenges readers to confront the war's effects on language.[13]


Look was reviewed favorably by The Los Angeles Review as an account of war's effects on culture and language.[14]

Customs: Poems, her second collection, considers the contingent status of immigrant women in the US; the book has received positive criticism by Kamran Javadizadeh in The New York Review of Books.[15]


Poetry collections[edit]

  • Look: Poems. Graywolf Press, 2016. ISBN 9781555977443
  • Customs: Poems. Graywolf Press, 2022. ISBN 9781644450796



Print Publications
  • "My Father's Shoes" in A World Between
  • "Your Style" in Spaces Between Us
  • "Suitcases" in The Forbidden
  • Three poems in jubilat
  • Two poems in Gulf Coast
  • "Break-up" in Black Warrior Review
  • "Personal Effects" in Kenyon Review
Online Publications



  1. ^ "Executive Action Leaves Green Card Holders Abroad with Questions".
  2. ^ a b Clemmons, Zinzi (27 July 2016). "The Role of the Poet: An Interview with Solmaz Sharif". Retrieved 2017-03-25.
  3. ^ a b c d Clemmons, Zinzi (2016-07-27). "The Role of the Poet: An Interview with Solmaz Sharif". The Paris Review. Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  4. ^ a b Poetry Foundation Staff (August 27, 2023). "Solmaz Sharif". Poetry Foundation.
  5. ^ "Solmaz Sharif | NEA". Retrieved 2017-03-25.
  6. ^ "Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts Announces Recipient of the Holmes National Poetry Prize". Lewis Center for the Arts. 2017-07-17. Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  7. ^ "Solmaz Sharif Reads at Bread Loaf". New England Review. 2017-02-15. Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  8. ^ "2023 National Book Award Longlists Announced".
  9. ^ "LOOK". SOLMAZ SHARIF. 2015-12-20. Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  10. ^ "Solmaz Sharif".
  11. ^ "New faculty in ASU English shows sustained commitment to charter values". 28 August 2019.(August 28, 2019)
  12. ^ "Look, by Solmaz Sharif, 2016 National Book Award Finalist, Poetry". Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  13. ^ "Washington Post Reviews Solmaz Sharif's Look and More by Harriet Staff". Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. 2017-11-13. Retrieved 2017-11-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ "Book Review: Look by Solmaz Sharif - The Los Angeles Review". The Los Angeles Review. 2016-08-02. Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  15. ^ Javadizadeh, Kamran (2022-04-21). "In Between States: Customs, by Solmaz Sharif". The New York Review of Books. 69 (7): 16–20.
  16. ^ Elahi, Babak (2008-01-01). "Review of A World between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans, , ; Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, Persis M. Karim". MELUS. 33 (2): 177–180. doi:10.1093/melus/33.2.177. JSTOR 20343474.
  17. ^ "Stegner Fellowship – Current Stegner Fellows « Stanford Creative Writing Program". Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  18. ^ "Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships". Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. 2017-11-13. Retrieved 2017-11-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  19. ^ "The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Awards". Retrieved 2017-11-13.
  20. ^ "Solmaz Sharif Wins 2017 PEN Center Literary Award for Poetry by Harriet Staff". Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. 2017-10-28. Retrieved 2017-10-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. ^ "2017 American Book Awards announced! | Before Columbus Foundation". Retrieved 2017-11-13.

External links[edit]