Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

ZaatarDiva/The Lives of Rain/The Neverfield Poem/Unfortunately It Was Paradise: Selected Poems

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

ZaatarDiva/The Lives of Rain/The Neverfield Poem/Unfortunately It Was Paradise: Selected Poems

Article excerpt

ZaatarDiva ***** By Suheir Hammad, 2005, 1002 pp. List: $12; AET: $10. Includes audio CD.

The Lives of Rain ***** By Nathalie Handal, 2005, 67 pp. List: $15; AET: $10.

The Neverfield Poem ***** By Nathalie Handal, 2005, 61 pp. List: $12; AET: $10.

Unfortunately It Was Paradise: Selected Poems ***** By Mahmoud Darwish, Translated and edited by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forché with Sinan Antoon and Amira El-Zein, 2003, 191 pp. List: $16.95; AET: $13.50.

If "a nation is as great as its ode," as Mahmoud Darwish writes in "Mural," one of many poems included in Unfortunately It Was Paradise-a masterfully translated collection from Palestine's most famous poet that also includes selections from Fewer Roses, I see What I Want To see, Why Have You Left the Horse Alone? and A Bed for the Stranger-then Palestine is a great nation indeed. Darwish expresses the pain of millions of refugees who live "a present not embraced by the past... .who travel like everyone else, but we return to nothing." He embodies the spirit of the intifada, where "we flash victory signs in the darkness so that the darkness may glitter," embraces the prisoner who is "accused of what is within us," knows "what the dove means when it lays eggs on the rifle's muzzle," dares to speak of love in the face of tragedy, and exclaims "you are my reality, I am your question."

In the tradition of Darwish, young Palestinian women in the Diaspora are taking up the mantle of modern Palestinian poetry. Nathalie Handal, a "poet in violet solitude" riding "sailboats across the world's heart," beautifully describes the continuing agony of exile of her generation of refugees, who should "no longer be sheets flying to nowhere." In "The Neverfield Poem," she exudes beauty in the face of exile and finds a homeland in poetry. There, despite her uneasiness as a refugee, she obviously is at home in her language, so natural in describing her shifting state that she seems at peace. …

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