Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond

Tina Chang, Editor, Ravi Shankar, Editor, Nathalie Handal, Editor . Norton $24.95 (734p) ISBN 978-0-393-33238-4

This ambitious yet accessible gathering of hundreds of poets from various parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, America and elsewhere is likely to excite poetry fans as well as those new to poetry. Seeking a response to 9/11, the three editors, who are poets and teachers of Asian-American descent, hoped to share “an alternate vision of the new century in which words, not weapons, could define our civilization.” Divided into nine idiosyncratic sections—with titles like “Bowl of Air and Shivers” that cover topics including Eros and the meeting of the political and the personal—the book is more an esoteric journey than a systematic reference. Readers may recognize the names of major international figures (Nazim Hikmet, Taha Muhammad Ali) and famous American writers (Michael Ondaatje, Li-Young Lee), who may draw attention to many writers unknown in the U.S., such as Hsien Min Toh of Singapore, who, upon seeing sport hunters shooting crows, awakens to an all-too-familiar ambivalence about “my unkind nation, in whose name only I will be/ able to walk up the lane with lowered head.” While the book's sheer size can be overwhelming, it is packed with treasures. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/21/2008
Release date: 04/01/2008
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