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Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry

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At no other time in American history has our imagination been so engrossed with the Arab experience. An indispensable and historic volume, Inclined to Speak gathers together poems, from the most important contemporary Arab American poets, that shape and alter our understanding of this experience. These poems also challenge us to reconsider what it means to be American. Imp At no other time in American history has our imagination been so engrossed with the Arab experience. An indispensable and historic volume, Inclined to Speak gathers together poems, from the most important contemporary Arab American poets, that shape and alter our understanding of this experience. These poems also challenge us to reconsider what it means to be American. Impressive in its scope, this book provides readers with an astonishing array of poetic sensibilities, touching on every aspect of the human condition. Whether about culture, politics, loss, art, or language itself, the poems here engage these themes with originality, dignity, and an unyielding need not only to speak, but also to be heard. Here are thirty-nine poets offering up 160 poems. Included in the anthology are Naomi Shihab Nye, Samuel Hazo, D. H. Melhem, Lawrence Joseph, Khaled Mattawa, Mohja Khaf, Matthew Shenoda, Kazim Ali, Nuar Alsadir, Fady Joudah, and Lisa Suhair Majaj. Charara has written a lengthy introduction about the state of Arab American poetry in the country today and short biographies of the poets and provided an extensive list of further readings.


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At no other time in American history has our imagination been so engrossed with the Arab experience. An indispensable and historic volume, Inclined to Speak gathers together poems, from the most important contemporary Arab American poets, that shape and alter our understanding of this experience. These poems also challenge us to reconsider what it means to be American. Imp At no other time in American history has our imagination been so engrossed with the Arab experience. An indispensable and historic volume, Inclined to Speak gathers together poems, from the most important contemporary Arab American poets, that shape and alter our understanding of this experience. These poems also challenge us to reconsider what it means to be American. Impressive in its scope, this book provides readers with an astonishing array of poetic sensibilities, touching on every aspect of the human condition. Whether about culture, politics, loss, art, or language itself, the poems here engage these themes with originality, dignity, and an unyielding need not only to speak, but also to be heard. Here are thirty-nine poets offering up 160 poems. Included in the anthology are Naomi Shihab Nye, Samuel Hazo, D. H. Melhem, Lawrence Joseph, Khaled Mattawa, Mohja Khaf, Matthew Shenoda, Kazim Ali, Nuar Alsadir, Fady Joudah, and Lisa Suhair Majaj. Charara has written a lengthy introduction about the state of Arab American poetry in the country today and short biographies of the poets and provided an extensive list of further readings.

30 review for Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Read for class, with one of the best teachers ever.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Naori

    Beautifully pungent, traumatic, necessary. If you believe yourself to be a poet, you must make yourself a place amongst these authors, as they are defining poetry for a great deal of the world and a great many people’s experience. I have been reading this book for weeks now, and not because I couldn’t finish it sooner or it was slow or for any of these common reasons. It was actually because it was impossible, physically impossible, to ingest more than a handful of poems at a time. The ways in w Beautifully pungent, traumatic, necessary. If you believe yourself to be a poet, you must make yourself a place amongst these authors, as they are defining poetry for a great deal of the world and a great many people’s experience. I have been reading this book for weeks now, and not because I couldn’t finish it sooner or it was slow or for any of these common reasons. It was actually because it was impossible, physically impossible, to ingest more than a handful of poems at a time. The ways in which these writers communicated survival, rebirth, fear, devotion, fury and futility was something that resonated so severely that it was physical for me. I will put an excerpt below but only something very light because I feel that everyone who reads this should have their own physical, intimate experience with it. So often it is easy to live amidst worlds of fiction - to write it, to love it, to honestly need it to survive. That is exactly why we love books. However, that is why we should listen to this one. These poets reach out and implore that those who have the means to should not simply live lives of convenience. Whether it is just turning off the news to avoid the reality of global suffering, or even a refusal to engage in basic humanitarian issues. Comfort is illusionary; complacency can be dangerous. Certainly none of us need an anthology of poetry to remind us of that, but an entire, quite dense, anthology sweeping Arab American and Arab American immigrant experience can't hurt. I think the reason this book is so crucial is that we often read a work by, say for example, a Lebanese writer or a writer of any nationality other than our own (I am using Lebanese here because this is an anthology of Arab American writers and many are Lebanese). After doing so, feel as though we understand the entire situation in that region. We even often emotionally connect to it perhaps without a true understanding of the disparate and complex realities that make up many people, who often get collapsed into the same place. However, I believe a more truer understanding comes within the pages of this book, an understanding of many people who have fought not to be homogenized. In this dense volume you have to face the wound of this entire geography, it's rawness and both the passion and the horror that nearly all nations of the world have participated in, either through action or passivity. I will teach my students this in the fall as I don't believe these are words whose echoes should be lost. Actually, this anthology includes an artist and acquaintance of mine, Suheir Hammad, whose oral poetry I use in nearly all of my classes and who’s poetry and other work I highly recommend. We have a responsibility to these voices - even if we are one of them - to carry their realities to those who may be shut off from this reality. I hope that many of you will spend time letting this text talk to you, and listen while it talks to itself. It will not only be worth it, it will redesign you. Again, I would like to put a few light lines that don’t go to heavily into many of the issues the texts attacks. Those I hope you will find out for yourself... from “Relics” by Matthew Shenoda ...”We are a memory shaped by vertebrae Clappers of rhythm disassembled by the skeletons of time We are the dissipating cartilage of our great-grandchildren’s memory holding to their sockets by a sinew of hope Making sense of these bones we reassemble history Making ancestral tapestries in the shape of retaining walls We are a memory shaped by vertebrae Clappers of rhythm disassembled by the skeletons of time You are the skin behind the clouds.” ————————— While the quote below was not from one of the poems itself, it was a preemptive quote to “Roots” by Sharif S. Elmusa, and I found it profoundly appropriate to the collection: “Home is where people can read your name correctly on your tombstone.” -Attila Jozsef

  3. 5 out of 5

    عماد العتيلي

    ‏ A very good collection of Arab-American poems. I think the two important poets I knew from this anthology were: Mohja Kahf and Etel Adnan. I'm planning to read most of their work (especially novels and short stories). People who truly LOVE poetry will enjoy reading this. I didn't enjoy it that much! ‏ A very good collection of Arab-American poems. I think the two important poets I knew from this anthology were: Mohja Kahf and Etel Adnan. I'm planning to read most of their work (especially novels and short stories). People who truly LOVE poetry will enjoy reading this. I didn't enjoy it that much!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sohaib

    What kind of poetry to expect in Inclined to Speak? Expect reading about people who felt impelled to speak—out of an often equivocal inner necessity. As you read, expect to feel the disoriented, anxious, ungrounded and panicky … sentences running on end without junctions: running thoughts and running people; running minds. People marginalized who found the often-unheard voice on paper. Expect to get lost … between foreign parents and foreign cultures. Expect to dislike … the majority. Expect to find What kind of poetry to expect in Inclined to Speak? Expect reading about people who felt impelled to speak—out of an often equivocal inner necessity. As you read, expect to feel the disoriented, anxious, ungrounded and panicky … sentences running on end without junctions: running thoughts and running people; running minds. People marginalized who found the often-unheard voice on paper. Expect to get lost … between foreign parents and foreign cultures. Expect to dislike … the majority. Expect to find solace … only in nature. Expect to remember your childhood. Expect sarcasm, wit and honesty. Poems here deal with Arab-American personas’ struggle as “exiles” in the United States. Their poetry voices their memories of childhood, nostalgia for a seemingly nonexistent place to call home, nature as a refuge, sarcasm and wit as a way of criticism, non-belonging (neither here nor there), non-rootedness (as ethnics and energetically out of touch with reality), untimely death, terrorism, uncertainty of life … and many more.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    First I should say, regarding all of the anthologies I am teaching this semester, I have not been reading each of them in their entirety (except for June Jordan's SOULSCRIPT). That said, I am really moved so far by Hayan Charara's introduction to this collection. As with Francisco Aragon and THE WIND SHIFTS, I appreciate Charara's transparency in discussing his process of selection of work and poets. I especially appreciate his discussions of the label of Arab American identity being shifting, p First I should say, regarding all of the anthologies I am teaching this semester, I have not been reading each of them in their entirety (except for June Jordan's SOULSCRIPT). That said, I am really moved so far by Hayan Charara's introduction to this collection. As with Francisco Aragon and THE WIND SHIFTS, I appreciate Charara's transparency in discussing his process of selection of work and poets. I especially appreciate his discussions of the label of Arab American identity being shifting, problematic, political, and that like it or not, these Arab American poets are political, if only because they are emerging in public as writers/authors at a time in history in which "Arab" is being pushed to the forefront of our international consciousness in extreme and dangerous ways. While Orientalist depictions of the Other are nothing new, this post-9/11, current wave of Islamaphobia and anti-Arab hate is widespread and pervasive. Hence, the sharp importance of a poetic project dealing with identity politics, and contesting identity politics. The poets Charara has selected is multi-generational and international/diasporic, as well as aesthetically diverse. From the spare lines of Sinan Antoon, to the "performative" quality and vernacular of Suheir Hammad, to the musicality of Matthew Shenoda, to the "experimentalism" of Etel Adnan, I think Charara tries his best to include poems which speak on a macro level as well as from a lyric I POV, and not privileging one aesthetic sensibility over another. He also acknowledges where he perceives this project as potentially falling short, with regards to queer studies and feminist theory. This here though, he sees as Arab American poetics being "ripe for criticism," for expanding upon in subsequent projects. Ultimately, what I appreciate most about this collection is that Charara states this about political poetry: these are poems which embrace this reality, however gruesome, hopeless, joyous, and from these, give us poems which are life affirming.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    My review appeared in the San Antonio Express-News in their Sunday book section, Sunday, April 27, 2008. This is a remarkable collection of 160 poems by 39 Arab American poets. There is not a weak poem in the collection. Excerpts from this review: These Arab American poets are neither tourists nor terrorists. Rather, they are esteemed professors, lawyers, translators, editors; people doing business and community work; parents raising families and corresponding with relatives from their countries My review appeared in the San Antonio Express-News in their Sunday book section, Sunday, April 27, 2008. This is a remarkable collection of 160 poems by 39 Arab American poets. There is not a weak poem in the collection. Excerpts from this review: These Arab American poets are neither tourists nor terrorists. Rather, they are esteemed professors, lawyers, translators, editors; people doing business and community work; parents raising families and corresponding with relatives from their countries of origin. They are not having an identity crisis or mapping an Arab Disaspora or replaying the Arabian nights. They are peaceful citizens, thoughtful and humane, just like most of us. Yes, there are political poems here from fresh perspectives, but none are screeds that promote propaganda. In fact, they argue against lies convincingly, often with satirical wit. Where there is anger there is also compassion; where there is social criticism, there is never didacticism. They remind us that stereotypes and prejudice, war and genocide are overcome only by bridges of dialogue and not by walls of separation. Yet like all poets, they write also of nature and love, of languages and ideas, of spirituality and attitude. Editor Hayan Charara has made shrewd choices, and also contributes a masterful language excursion in his long poem ("Usage"). His thoughtful introduction, free of academic jargon, discusses the poetic, political and social dimensions, as well as the thematic and personal issues that Arab American poets confront in their lives and work. The University of Arkansas Prress deserves kudos for publishing this ground-breaking anthology at a time when deeper understanding of our diversity is most crucial. This marvelous gathering of sensibilities will challenge and excite open-minded readers with significant new poetry. Please read this anthology, then reread it. It is that important. --Copyright 2008 by Robert Bonazzi

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brynn

    This was my first real introduction to "Arab American" contemporary poetry, though I hesitate to give it that title. The implications of such a title seem to limit the poems within to being about the experience of Arab Americans as Arab Americans, rather than as men, women, LGBTQ, Muslims, Christians, mothers, sons, etc. - as people. While many of the poems in this anthology are about the intersection of culture and race, the stories, experiences, and ideas of these poets are not limited to thei This was my first real introduction to "Arab American" contemporary poetry, though I hesitate to give it that title. The implications of such a title seem to limit the poems within to being about the experience of Arab Americans as Arab Americans, rather than as men, women, LGBTQ, Muslims, Christians, mothers, sons, etc. - as people. While many of the poems in this anthology are about the intersection of culture and race, the stories, experiences, and ideas of these poets are not limited to their identity as Arab Americans and should not be viewed as such. Rather, this is one of the ways for these historically underrepresented artists to continue to make names for themselves in the world of contemporary poetry. Definitely worth your time. One of my favorite poems was "My Grandmother Washes her Feet in the Bathroom Sink at Sears," by Mohja Kahf.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tonya

    Another book I want to read, but like Fady's book they ran out of copies. Zut Alors! Hayan told me I could find it for cheap on Amazon. How nice! Another book I want to read, but like Fady's book they ran out of copies. Zut Alors! Hayan told me I could find it for cheap on Amazon. How nice!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    There were some really amazing poems in this book. I loved the variety of topics and styles.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Coyne

    Rich reading.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Todd Zimmer

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ambrose Miles

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara Saab

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amir

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tooty Ht

  16. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  17. 5 out of 5

    كودي

  18. 4 out of 5

    theri

  19. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  20. 5 out of 5

    KNOT MAGAZINE

  21. 4 out of 5

    Leila Ben-nasr

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nora Hood

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Al-Qaisi-Coleman

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elias Darwish

  25. 5 out of 5

    T.E.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aladdin Elaasar

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marielle Risse

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tatyana

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