The Day of My First Driving Lesson
by Tiel Aisha Ansari
A Poetry Box Chapbook Prize Winner – First Place, 2020
The Day of My First Driving Lesson was written in the wake of the author’s parents’ deaths. It is a deeply moving poetic memoir celebrating her parents and the tremendous impact they had on her life. Ansari explores themes of growing up as an expatriate, bereavement, grief, and celebration in this non-traditional collection inspired by a workshop taught by Penelope Scambly Schott.
About the Author
Tiel Aisha Ansari is a Sufi warrior poet. She works as a data analyst and professional curmudgeon for the Portland Public School District and is President Emerita of the Oregon Poetry Association. She now hosts the Wider Window Poetry show, promoting the work of poets of color on KBOO Community Radio, (https://www.kboo.fm/program/wider-window-poetry)
Her work has been featured by Fault Lines Poetry, Windfall, KBOO, and an Everyman’s Library anthology, among others. Her collections include Knocking from Inside, High-Voltage Lines, Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare’s Stable, and Dervish Lions (forthcoming from Fernwood Press). She drinks coffee in the morning and tea at night.
Visit her online at knockingfrominside.blogspot.com.
Early Praise for The Day of My First Driving Lesson:
“I was learning to be the hero of my own story. This line from the poem “1975” could be the anthem for this powerful chapbook that traces the story of the poet’s family, an odyssey ranging from coast to coast in the United States, to Tanzania, and beyond. Alternating plainspoken narrative with vivid imagery, the poems also range through time, building a kaleidoscopic view of this interracial family’s life, challenges, inevitable aging, and the strong bonds that hold them together even beyond grief. The Day of My First Driving Lesson is a rare love letter to good parents and the legacy of compassion they leave behind.”
—Amy Miller, Contest Judge, 2020 and author of The Trouble with New England Girls
Tiel Aisha Ansari’s The Day of My First Driving Lesson reads like a memorable road trip through time, each poem noting a point of interest on the journey. Like the hermit crab in one of Ansari’s poems, its “jointed limbs…unfolding,” the family portrayed here settles into landscapes and cultures as different from each other as Pennsylvania and Tanzania, Hawaii and Oregon. “It took us fifteen minutes,” another poem recalls, “just to list the places we’d lived and why.” Ansari’s poems depict a life shaped by beloved parents and beloved homes, and fueling this collection is the question of how we navigate the eventual loss of those loves. A powerful exploration of what our families can teach us and what we have to learn ourselves along the way, The Day of My First Driving Lesson is a poignant, tender collection.
—Jennifer Richter, author of No Acute Distress and Threshold
A splendidly-woven blend of eulogy and memoir, Tiel Aisha Ansari’s stunning new collection of autobiographical poems, like a photo montage of worldwide family travels —deftly arranged by subject, theme, and intuition, rather than by chronology—is full of so much more than what happened where and when. Dedicated to her parents, who died in 2018 and 2019, these precisely detailed, deceptively simple and carefully nuanced poems let us see for ourselves, page by page, memory by memory, the emergence of the poet’s personal sense of destiny, as it was shaped within the context of family values and the freedoms they offered. Aware that the choices before her are “love, duty, [and] fear,” the poet— like the sheriff in old-time westerns—knows she has “to be ready whenever that noon train rolls in.” Readers, prepare yourselves to be swept off your feet by the brilliance and depth of love in this book, by the beauty and power of its understandings. I can’t begin to praise it highly enough.
—Ingrid Wendt, author of Evensong