In Jerusalem and Other Poems

Palestinian poet Tamim Al-Barghouti is a force of nature whose poetry collection In Jerusalem uncovers the human condition with both spare precision and evocative grandeur.

The 16 poems in this collection were written between 1996 and 2016. Translated into English by Radwa Ashour, they capture the Middle East in all its contemporary chaos, its diversity and culture and beauty, but also its divisiveness, prejudices, violence and oppression. A journalist as well as a poet, Al-Barghouti was active in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The spirit of political activism permeates these poems, which alternate formalistically from fable-like dialogues to ode-like lyricism.

Though Al-Barghouti eschews punctuation, his lines have a clean edge; he employs a lean economy of images and sentiments that flow smoothly from stanza to stanza. In "The Ant," the speaker of the poem addresses "A nation of foam/ Whose sorrows are forged of iron/ Like palace gates/ Where death is a wandering drummer/ Passing our windows each dawn." In "Airport," the poet self-consciously ponders his own words, how "The curve of each character has weight/ Each sentence is a form of masonry." The best poem in the collection is the subtly delivered yet incredibly powerful "Joy." "Your sorrows, coquette-like, want all of you/ They build for you a prison," the poet states. His call to throw off these shackles of depression and embrace life is radical and subversive in its simplicity: "And if they ask your name, say/ I have no name today/ But tomorrow morning/ I will be known as Joy."

In Jerusalem is a poetry collection of searching conscience from one of the world's greatest living talents. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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