Thursday, December 8, 2011

On Khaled Mattawa's Tocqueville

This is the beginning of my review of Mattawa's Tocqueville, which appears, among twenty other reviews at "On the Seawall":

Khaled Mattawa’s Tocqueville, his fourth book of poems, is an experimentally-daring meditation on what it means to be a poet at the center of American power. But Tocqueville, in contrast to his lyrically-driven previous work, pronounces that it no longer suffices to sing, even to sing of dark times, as Bertolt Brecht proposed. Rather, through the poetry of Mattawa — born in Libya and for years an American citizen — we become witnesses to our own implicatedness, our own vulnerable privilege.

While the first poem is entitled “Lyric” — and begins, “Will answers be found / like seeds / planted among rows of song?”— the lyric “I” of the poet pulses through the entire collection, through its wider networks of imperial history, global economic flows, and Machiavellian politics, emerging in the diverse voices of a Somali singer, a Sierra Leonean victim/perpetrator of atrocity, a gallery viewer of photographs of Palestinian exile, a factory worker in Georgia, Ecclesiastes as insurance salesman, a terrorist, a State Department insider.

The keynote poem of the book is “On the Difficulty of Documentation,” a dialogic meditation on the role of art in a world of violence...
(read the rest of the review, and other reviews, from Ron Slate's "On the Seawall") 

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