UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS PARADISE: Selected Poems
When Darwish's selected The Adam of Two Edens was published by Syracuse in late 2000, the second Palestinian intifada was not yet bound up in "the war on terror," and the book did not get much play, perhaps partially due to its disparate translations (and an uninviting cover). That should not be the case with this second selection of work by the poet often spoken of as the national poet of Palestine. Darwish, who lived more than 25 years in exile from his native Haifa, is currently living in Ramallah, and these selections, covering five books and 20 or so years, are uncompromising and powerful. Akash is the editor of Jusoor: The Arab American Journal of Cultural Exchange and co-editor of Post Gibran: An Anthology of New Arab American Writing (2000), but the key here is Forché (The Angel of History, etc.), who brings out the thorny immediacy and consistency in Darwish's complex linguistic negotiations of deeply contested places—places on the earth and in the mind. It is difficult to summarize those spaces here, but suffice to say that Darwish, as rendered in this English-only edition, demands, and sustains, serious reading and discussion, as in the magisterial long poem "Mural" from 2000: "I will dream, not to correct any meaning beyond me,/ but to heal the inner desolation of its terrible drought." (Jan.)
Forecast:Darwish won the Lannan Foundation's $350,000 Prize for Cultural Freedom last year, and the foundation also underwrote this edition. Darwish was profiled last December in the New York Times; expect serious review attention for this book, and extensive attention to Darwish himself, though he is unlikely to travel to the U.S. as the book pubs.