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Sunday, December 21, 2008

19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye's collection contains sixty poems about Palestinians and Middle East, about love and longing for lost and imaginary homelands. The poems are fragrant with spices of the Middle-East, flavors of figs and olives, and served with a tenderness of a grandmother talking to a grandchild, a five year old to his mother, an aged man to his beloved he unites with after a lifetime. In the world torn by religious and political conflicts, these poems represent an oasis of hope. It is the humanity of these verses, that leaps from the page like the memory of nineteen varieties of gazelle described in the title poem.

The poems assume special significance in the context of post-September 11 world, for they contain a platter of understanding and taste served to assuage our need to be comforted. The solace is brought in by the mint green language of a poet born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. Perhaps the unique identity of Nye offers her perspectives about the Arab East and American West which her creativity has shaped into a narrative that offers respite from the reactionary rhetoric that dominates our daily thinking and actions.

As an Indian residing in America, I sense a brotherhood with Nye's characters, who chase the voices, flavors, visions, music and familiarity that maps their nostalgic world. As a poet with Indian heart and Americanized mind, I find Nye, like Agha Shahid Ali, present our cultural and emotional duality in a lyric that is both powerful and poignant. The tapestry of inheritance of the East is laced with tales quite unknown in the West, and this wealth can nourish many a chasms that exist between the material and spiritual. It is voices like Amichai's and Nye's that remind us that the transcendental humanity within us can help us to outlive the wounds inflicted by the fanatic forces everywhere.

1 comment:

javieth said...

Every poem demostrates the love, compassion and good will human being. In fact i read a wonderful poem few time ago. I really loved. That´s why i think this blog is very interesting, most of all for the people who enjoy the poems. I saw
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