Today, acclaimed Arab authors’ favorite poetry collections of 2012. If you missed the favorites of nonfiction (posted yesterday) they’re here. And novels: tomorrow.
Yasser Abdellatif, Egyptian novelist
In poetry, I liked the collection Please, God, Give Us Books to Read (2012) by Alexandrian poet Mohab Nasr. The work is dense, but not so much at the level of the language as much as in the existential situations captured in the poems, and in the combination of drama and black comedy.
Omar Berrada, Moroccan poet
“A line will take us hours maybe; / Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, / Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.” Yeats could have said this about many of Etel Adnan’s books, including the recent “Sea and Fog” (Nightboat Books). An entire life of reading and writing and traveling and being heartbroken over Lebanese and other politics finds expression within gorgeous, concise, poetic statements. Vast expanses of thought in seeming effortlessness. In person, I have often wondered how Etel manages to retain such joyful, youthful energy. At 87 years old, she had a whole room of her paintings exhibited at Documenta this year, as well as the world premiere of her first film. And she has a few writing projects underway.
Ahmad Yamani, Egyptian poet
I really enjoyed four poetry collections: Please, God, Give Us Books to Read, by Egyptian poet Mohab Nasr, I Will Kill You, Death, by the Palestinian Poet and writer Samer Abou Hawash, Shadow Narration, by the Egyptian poet and writer Sayed Mahmoud, and How Do You Make a Book That Sells?, by the Egyptian poet Issam Abu Zaid.
In the mid-90s, Mohab Nasr published his wonderful first poetry collection Your Eye is a Bird to be Stolen, and this was an important event within the Egyptian and Arabic poetry context at the time. Years passed after that, without Mohab publishing any new book. This year, he is back with a new collection, and the least that can be said about it is that it moved the current poetic recession with a special language and performance belonging solely to Mohab Nasr. This collection is a major incident itself and the return of Mohab to Poem is another.
I Will Kill You, Death, by the Palestinian Poet and writer Samer Abou Hawash is a long visual poem that occupies the entire book and where Samer tackles with his genuine poetic voice the Arab spring and the forms of cruelty, blood, death, and dictatorship. Samar mentions in the collection’s introduction that he adopts the modal game, the game of visual mirrors, which reflects the prevailing visual factor in both the revolutions and in the attempts to suppress it. He does this through the transformation of the slogan “the people want to bring down the regime,” which becomes boy, girl, man, woman and statue.
Sayed Mahmoud’s Shadow Narration is his first poetry collection in classical Arabic. He released his first collection in colloquial Egyptian in the 90s. Sayed has surprised everyone this year with his beautiful, mature collection. The first surprise is his return to poetry and the second is writing in classical Arabic. This collection is not exaggerated in sentimentalism or refinement, while orbiting around adoration as a general theme.
This year seems to demonstrate an excellent resurgence in poetry, and here we find Issam Abu Zaid, one of the most important poetic voices in Egypt in 90s, returning with a collection How Do You Make a Book That Sells? after stopping for long. Issam invests his new collection with his first poetic jokes and adds a new sense of humor that looks incredible in many times in terms of tight poetic language.
Many thanks to all authors for their time.