Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My review of Fady Joudah's *The Earth in the Attic* online at "On the Seawall"

Ron Slate's "On the Seawall" has a new feature called "Nineteen Poets Recommend New and Recent Titles."  In Ron's words, "For holiday-time reading and gift-giving, here are 21 poetry collections recommended by 19 poets – Hank Lazer, Ange Mlinko, Tony Hoagland, Tara Betts, Lisa Russ Spaar, Philip Metres, Ken Chen, Julie Sheehan, Rusty Morrison, Joel Brouwer, Todd Boss, Robert Cording, Elaine Sexton, Leslie Harrison, Deborah Woodard, Aaron Belz, Don Bogen, Amanda Auchter, and Aaron Baker."

My entry, on Fady Joudah's The Earth in the Attic, begins like this:

I first met Fady Joudah online, in his role as editor for the Radius of Arab American Writers site, and was struck by his email address — which was not his name, but “isdoud.” What was this isdoud, I wondered. Was he referencing that he’s “a dude”? — Fady is, indeed, a dude. It turned out to be the name of a village in what was/is Palestine, with ancient roots going as far back as the Canaanite peoples, thousands of years ago. The village was where his parents came from, before their expulsion in 1948. Now, it is a ruin of a few remaining stone buildings — the mosque, a wall of a school where his father once attended. How strange, to be carrying his exiled home as email address, a place that exists as a cyberlink to wherever he happens to be, clicking on the Internet in search of mail.

Joudah’s The Earth in the Attic (2008), winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, is a book about life in exile, life as exile. The son of Palestinian refugees — refugees twice over — Joudah’s lyric territory is the exilic subjectivity, and his style is a blend of the hard-edged witnessing of a Forche with the dreamlike evanescence of a Darwish (whose poems he translates brilliantly). The sort of book that shows its textures and layers after re-reading — I’m tempted to say the way in which a seemingly wild landscape comes to reveal evidence of human habitation only after careful attention. Joudah composes a narrative poetry that defies the linearity of dull narration; instead, his is a braided technique, full of returns, fragments, and veerings-off before returning to lost places.
read on...

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