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I cannot be good until you say by Sanah Ahsan

I cannot be good until you say by Sanah Ahsan


The much-anticipated debut collection by the winner of the Outspoken Performance Poetry Prize: a tender meditation on queerness and Islam


Intricately weaving Quranic verse, psychology, and the hip-hop soundtrack of their childhood, Sanah’s poems reach for divinity in the body; an archive that refuses erasure.


These poems traverse unruly emotional and physical landscapes, Whiteness, islamophobia, homophobia, intergenerational suffering, and the politics of therapeutic processes. In these pages, belief and unbelief, goodness and badness, the material and spiritual are intertwined, reclaiming queer love and desire as holy.


How are we incarcerated by others’ gazes? Who gets to be good in a society built upon hierarchy? How might we embrace each other’s madnesses? Sanah Ahsan asks questions that travel to the heart of our humanness, bending the lines between psychologist and client to show us the sacred nature of our wounds. These poems kneel to the messiness of being alive, building altars to complication and presence. 


Refusing binaries of gender or religious doctrine, I cannot be good until you say it finds what is to be revered in the grey spaces of morality, advancing imagination and self-compassion as sites of communion.


This debut collection is a call to prayer, fearlessly complicating what is good, and what is god.




'Innovative and deeply compassionate ... multilingual verse suffused with a vital musicality and a palpable tenderness, Ahsan calls poetry into prayer and evokes a faith safe enough to be mothered by' - Mary Jean Chan, Fleche and Bright Fear


'When I speak of the word "sacred", Sanah Ahsan's I cannot be good until you say it will forever instantly spring to mind ... A masterpiece - an honour to have read this book, I am forever changed after reading its beauty' - Nikita Gill, Wild Embers


'Liberation is at the nucleus of every page of Sanah Ahsan's rousing debut ... Ahsan is doing liberation work, offering readers a prayer, a song, a hand to hold amidst the amidst' - Kaveh Akbar, Calling a Wolf a Wolf


'A remarkable and transformative collection' - Keith Jarrett, Selah

  • Details

    Imprint: Bloosmbury

    Publication Date: 14 March 2024

    ISBN: 9781526665867

    Pages: 112

    Format: Paperback

Notice to European Customers

All European Customers: You may be required to pay a local import tax on or before delivery for parcels entering the EU. Please check your local import rules for purchases from the UK.


Germany and Republic of Ireland: Due to a high return rate of parcels, we are sadly no longer shipping to Germany and the Republic of Ireland. 

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