I Don’t Want This Poem to End: Early and Late Poems

Mahmoud Darwish, ed. and trans. from the Arabic by Mohammad Shaheen. Interlink, $20 trade paper (242p) ISBN 978-1-56656-000-9
This alluring volume comprising three poetry collections from acclaimed Palestinian poet Darwish (1941–2008), available in English for the first time, also features complementary correspondence and essays on the poet’s life, composition process, and activism. Translator and editor Shaheen treats the poetic text as an artifact of a life in language, recognizing that Darwish’s movement through language was inevitably both personal and political. The title of the collection and some of its lines “might be said to be the last words spoken by the poet,” observes Elias Khoury in his introduction. Such graceful contextualization allows readers to appreciate the nuances of the translation and Darwish’s own words: “He says to her as they gaze at a rose/ Which scratches the wall: death came a little nearer to me,” Darwish writes in the title poem. That these may have been among Darwish’s last words heightens the emotional impact of both the poem’s craft and the faultless translation. The image of the rose functions as an emblem for the possibility—of empathy, kindness, and enlightenment—that art opens within political life. By carefully framing Darwish’s poetry as the record of a citizen inhabiting the complexities of Palestine’s political landscape, Shaheen delivers a volume ideally suited to both scholars and newcomers to Darwish’s body of work. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/20/2017
Release date: 08/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
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