If I Were Another

Mahmoud Darwish, Author, Fady Joudah, Translator , trans. from the Arabic by Fady Joudah. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $26 (201p) ISBN 978-0-374-17429-3

This second volume by the late, great Palestinian poet Darwish (1941–2008) to be translated by Palestinian-American doctor/poet Joudah comprises four nonconsecutive books of longer poems spanning 1990 to 2005. These works follow Darwish's poetic development from a historically focused middle period to the devastatingly personal lyric-epic of his late style. Formally varied—Rubaiyats alternate with sprawling free-form poems, in which prose paragraphs meet both long and short verse lines—Darwish's Sufi-inspired poetry probes, admires, describes, longs for and questions. His subjects are often broad: the inheritance and disinheritance of lands, languages and histories. Sometimes, though, he turns to concrete need, confessing, for example, in “Mural,” his book-length poem about a brush with death: “I want to walk to the bathroom/ on my own.” But Darwish's poems are at their most singular and powerful when he collapses the boundaries between great and small concerns, as when he articulates, “Wars teach us to love detail: the shape of our door keys,/ how to comb our wheat with eyelashes and walk lightly on our land.” The stakes of this work—for Darwish and for his readers—are clear: “O my language,/ help me to adapt and embrace the universe.” (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 08/17/2009
Release date: 10/01/2009
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FORMATS
Paperback - 201 pages - 978-0-374-53247-5
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