THE ADAM OF TWO EDENS: Selected Poems
"They never left. They never returned./ Their hearts were almonds in the streets," writes Darwish (Mural) in "The Tragedy of Narcissus, the Comedy of Silver." A revered Palestinian poet—recipient of France's Knight of Arts and Belles Lettres medal and the Lotus Prize, and author of 20 poetry collections among other works—Darwish was six at time of the Israeli occupations of 1948; his father was killed and his family fled to Lebanon. As a young man, he was repeatedly imprisoned for reading his poetry and not carrying the proper papers. He has since lived all over the world, and advised the PLO Executive Committee between 1982 and 1993, when he resigned in protest of the Oslo accords. In these 14 long and serial poems, translated by various hands and put into their final English versions here by Daniel Abdalhayy Moore, variegated repetitions evince the panorama and detail of refugee experience: "a desert for eternal absurdity/ a desert for the tablets of the law/ ...for school books, prophets and scientists." The voice throughout accumulates a rich mix of world-weariness and endurance: "Ruba'iyat" repeats the refrain "I've seen all I want to see of..." with different referents ("of the sea," "of blood," "of lightning"), while in "Eleven Planets," the speaker finds his own identity foreign: "fearing... my fountain's water,/ milk on the lips of figs, fearing my own language." (Apr.)Forecast:Darwish's work was at the center of an Israeli curriculum controversy last year, reported in the New York Times and elsewhere. When it was announced that Darwish's work would be compulsory for Israeli high school students, everyone from Jewish hard-liners to then Prime Minister Ehud Barak weighed in. American readers, with these fine translations now available, can decide for themselves. Expect serious sales on campus.