“Perfume of the Jasmine Revolt”

nawrasyaganThree books written in Arabic are described in this article as “a real perfume in the wake of the revolt of jasmine.” One novel, one book of poetry, and one semi-autobiography, or fictionalized memoir. Although only the book of poetry is directly about revolution, specifically the Syrian uprising.

Algerian writer Samir Qasimi has written four books to date and his book A Great Day to Die was long listed for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. His latest, The Dreamer, is described in the article as surrealist, combining spirituality and philosophy, with “Original writing, dense and poetic” and  “a plurality of voices.”

The second book is Mahmoud Jassim Najjar’s fictional memoir, Laza al-Zakira (“Shadow of Memory”) a book of “mirrors and mirages in Iraq” which details the difficulties of life amidst social and political turmoil through three characters, drawing from his own experiences. In this summary in Arabic, the book is describes as three short stories or one novella told through three points of view, an attempt to record “from the heart and from the memory” an Iraqi reality.

The third book is Nawras Yagan’s latest collection Ayat Lam Yaktebha Al Rabb (Verses that God has Not Written) includes 44 free verse poems on love, patriotism, rebellion, fear and isolation which speaks to the current situation in Syria from a poet born in Aleppo.  The French article describes Yagan’s poetry as similar to that of  Lebanese poet Ounsi El-Hage and Syrian poet Yusef al-Khal, one of whose poems, The Deserted Well is included in the anthology The Flag of Childhood: Poems from The Middle East edited by Naomi Shihab Nye. He is also mentioned as co-founder of the magazine Shi’r (“Poetry”) with the more famous poet Adunis (See: Robert Irwin, The Arab Surrealist).

Although it might be a little (a lot) hyperbolic to compare a young poet to these more established figures, this Arabic article on Yakan’s collection describes the poems as strong and important, noting that this is the first poetry collection on the Syrian revolution, which has suffered from the intermittent attention of a world numbed by daily casualty figures, by continuous assaults on a people by a regime determined to cling onto power. And in this situation, what can poetry do?  I am reminded of Seamus Heaney’s words:

“In one sense the efficacy of poetry is nil – no lyric has ever stopped a tank. In another sense, it is unlimited. It is like writing in the sand in the face of which accusers and accused are left speechless and renewed.”

Here is one of the poems from the collection:

And a poem not from the collection:

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