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Salimah Valiani

Salimah Valiani was raised in Calgary, Alberta, and educated at McGill University and the London School of Economics. She has lived in Cape Town, South Africa working on development and in Toronto where she worked as an associate researcher at the Centre for the Study of Learning, Social Economy and Work at the University of Toronto. Her family’s roots are Asian from Tanzania. Valiani’s current home is in Johannesburg, South Africa.


29 Leads to Love: New and Selected Poems

Toronto: Inanna, 2021.
e-book (Access restricted to members of the university community)

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

In a world barely beginning to recognize itself as dazzlingly multihued, the erupting ecocide is teaching that while no accounting of complexity is complete, change is true and the sky, singular.

We are of parts fundamentally interconnected and overlapping.

If we choose it, this overlapping can become a continuum. A continuum of movement combined with still-ness, individuality reaching for the whole, loss and surrender, abandon and opening.

And of falling: an ever-falling, toward the intensive care that is love.

Awards and Honours

2022 International Book Awards–Contemporary Poetry (Winner)



Breathing for Breadth

Toronto: TSAR , 2005.
PS8643 .A425 B74 2005

Publisher’s Synopsis (From it’s website)

The poems in this collection, in various sections, elaborate on the emotional experience of challenging and trying; explore the ways of accepting vulnerability, and drawing understanding from it; search for beauty in endurance; explore protest and resistance; and finally revolve around the idea of taking risk and learning and becoming through experiences larger than the self and beyond the personal.


Cradles: Poems

Montreal: Daraja Press, 2017.
PS8643.A425 A6 2017

Publisher’s Synopsis (From it’s website)

Cradles is a collection poems on the nature(s) and nurturing that cradle us. They are divided into four parts: Womb is the first cradle, both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’, under-acknowledged and often unmentioned. Beyond the physical womb of individuals, there are collective wombs that incubate on yet grander and greater scales. Land(s) are the cradles we typically identify as our ‘origins’, but as the Cradle of Humankind teaches, the many lands of today are interlaced in many concealed ways and originated in a single, little understood place. Tides are the many migrations and cycles of time that shape us. They can shift, upset and remake the nurturing of cradles; but also cradle us in cycles of wreckage. Wind sets us free of places and times of origin. This detachment can bring freedom, a sense of loss/lostness, and the many things in between. The freedom/loss/lostness spiral whirls with the wind and transforms. In surrendering to it we can alter its pace to our needs and desires.


Land of the Sky: Poems

Toronto: Inanna Publications, 2016.
PS643 .A425 L35 2016

Publisher’s Synopsis (From it’s website)

Inspired by the Rocky Mountains, ‘Land of the Sky’, the last poem in this collection, is a means of using detail from various distances to reflect on the socio-political and the human that is all around us. At the essence of all the poems in the collection: to explore the land through the distance of the sky and understand that which seems so grounded as the sky as full of metaphor and near-unfathomable reflexes of histories. This collection is also a continuation of one of the projects of the previous poetry collection, Letter Out: Letter In: defining and redefining love as an alternative to solidarity, with the added twist of drawing alternatives to diversity and democracy from the multiplicity of nature.



Letter Out: Letter In: Poems

Toronto: Inanna Publications, 2009.
PS8643 .A425 L48 2009

Publisher’s Synopsis (From it’s website)

Using post-Apartheid South Africa as a point from which to reflect on Canada and beyond, Letter Out : Letter In is a poetry collection of social commentary, political-economic analysis, and philosophical meditation. Historic and persisting structures of racism, sexism and economic inequality are explored, but also the nature of gender and ethnic divisions within and among oppressed groups. Moving from critique, Letter Out : Letter In further proposes love as an alternative to the binary of competition/solidarity so prevalent in Western thought. The Sufi notion of love is defined and redefined at recurring moments in the collection, making use of poetic subtlety to offer a new vision in a fractured world.

Poetry (Chapbook)

Love Pandemic: Poems

Montreal: Daraja Press, 2022.
Also issued as an audio book.

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

These poems were largely written during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last poem in the collection was written at the start of the second wave in Africa. Most were circulated through What’s App voice notes, an intimate way of keeping distance while reaching out to touch.


Salimah Valiani personal website

Publisher Daraja Press

Publisher Inanna Publications

Publisher Mawenzi House (formerly TSAR)