Both timely and timeless, this collection introduced me to the work of Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish. In poems that range in scope from historical (and current) events to elegies for friends and fellow poets to things as mundane as cups of coffee, he explores the world in a beautiful and unforgettable way. Here is a story of human life in all its tragedies and hopes, and I still have lines from it in my head months later. Recommended By Alice H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A much-anticipated follow-up to Nothing More to Lose, this is only the second poetry collection translated into English from a vital voice of Arabic literature.
“We drag histories behind us,” the Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish writes in Exhausted on the Cross, “here / where there’s neither land / nor sky.” In pared-down lines, brilliantly translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Darwish records what Raúl Zurita describes as “something immemorial, almost unspeakable”—a poetry driven by a “moral imperative” to be a “colossal record of violence and, at the same time, the no less colossal record of compassion.” Darwish’s poems cross histories, cultures, and geographies, taking us from the grime of modern-day Shatila and the opulence of medieval Baghdad to the gardens of Samarkand and the open-air prison of present-day Gaza. We join the Persian poet Hafez in the conquered city of Shiraz and converse with the Prophet Mohammad in Medina. Poem after poem evokes the humor in the face of despair, the hope in the face of nightmare.
“A voice simultaneously so passionate and so matter-of-fact that it stops the breath.” NPR
“Such poetry does not play games, linguistic, critical, theoretical, does not address itself to the academies, but goes straight to the heart, straight to the point. And, on every page, in every line, the Lyric voice, the moving, self-questioning power, predominates.” Nathaniel Tarn
About the Author
Najwan Darwish is one of the foremost contemporary Arab poets. Since the publication of his first collection in 2000, his poetry has been hailed across the Arab world and beyond as a singular expression of the Palestinian struggle. NYRB Poets published Darwish’s Nothing More to Lose, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, in 2014, which was picked as one of the best books of the year by NPR and nominated for several awards. Darwish lives between Haifa and his birthplace, Jerusalem.
Kareem James Abu-Zeid is a translator, editor, writer, and scholar who works across multiple languages. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Poetics of Adonis and Yves Bonnefoy: Poetry as Spiritual Practice. He lives in the countryside just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.