LA Times: ‘Yemen Poet Has a Line on the Region’

This piece would’ve been much more interesting as a Q & A. Instead we get Jeffrey Fleishman’s thoroughly chewed and swallowed, chewed and swallowed (and swished-around-in-his-mouth) ideas about Yemen and, why not, the whole Middle East. Egypt gets a nice little slap: for good measure.

And all these headlines because a violent attacker studied Arabic in Yemen? Certainly Yemen needs some attention—somehow, from somewhere—but I’m not sure this spate of headlines and hand-wringing is going to help.

I suppose it’s a way, at least, of introducing Yemeni poetry to U.S. readers.

I’m not sure how the headline fits, (and it’s not “Yemeni Poet?”)  or if Fleishman was involved in its writing. Indeed, what Fleishman says in the article is that he couldn’t get poet Abdel Aziz al-Maqalih to talk about anything Fleishman wanted to discuss. Fleishman didn’t hear the things that seemed to fit his idea of the story, the way he wanted to frame it.

It goes like this:

Fleishman wants to speak about Yemen. Al-Maqalih has an audience with the L.A. Times readership; he wants to talk about America’s foreign policy. Or I don’t know, he’s not able to talk about Yemen. Or he doesn’t want to open his country’s wounds for the L.A. Times readers to gawk at.

At least Fleishman did excerpt two poems (were these prose poems? did he just ignore the line breaks?). But you can get more of al-Maqalih’s work from Banipal 36, anyway. An excerpt from “Summer Sonnets,” with line breaks:

The hour is midnight
and the neighbourhood’s children
roam the streets
light, half-naked
with his fingers a child plays
a song of hoarse words
on a wet flute