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Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry (Poetry Series) Paperback – September 1, 1999
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From Library Journal
This anthology of 20 Arab American poets (five of them women) is the revised edition of a 1988 hardcover, with a new introduction, updated biographies, and a few new poems. Although the headnotes could have used more updating, the volume is a useful presentation of poets with Arab American "Bicultural" heritage. (All poems are in English.) The superstar is the legendary Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), born in a Lebanese mountain village and raised in Boston, one of the world's most famous modern poets. With an astonishing 9.5 million copies in print, Gibran's The Prophet (published in 1923) remains Random House's "all-time bestseller." For those who know only The Prophet's "sacred incantation," it's good to have available selections from other diverse Arab American voices, from Ameen Rihani (1876-1940) to Elmaz Abinader (b. 1954). Many of these "Arab" poets seem thoroughly "American": Samuel Hazo, whose parents were Assyrian-Lebanese, was Pittsburgh's Man of the Year in the Arts for 1984. "Arab-American" in actuality defines those whose roots are multifaith, and, far from romantic exile, the spirit of these poems is realistic and self-searching. (The "grape leaves" of the title symbolize fertility and health.) With a complex blend of ethnicity, these poets seek to build bridges "between worlds" and forge new kinds of identity. [See also Post Gibran: Anthology of New Arab American Writing, reviewed on p. 102.--Ed.]--Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, P.
---Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Beginning with the circle around Kahlil Gibran (the Syrian migr and author whose dreadful work, The Prophet, sold nearly 10 million copies and almost singlehandedly kept New Directions in the black for decades) and concluding with such well-established younger poets as Lawrence Joseph and Naomi Shihab Nye, this is an admirably non-doctrinaire collection. The editors have included Muslim, Jewish, and Christian writers, writers from across both the United States and the Middle East, and writers in every style from Gibran's Whitmanian cutouts to the beat prosody of San Francisco poet Etel Adnan and the droll enigmas of critic Eugene Paul Nassar. Readers suspicious of the casually vatic Gibran may be disarmed by the selections drawn from his two pre-Prophet collections. The editors have chosen sturdy and plain-spoken translations of the older poets, although testimony to their ear for poetry in English is not to be found in their joint translations (they call a Mikhail Naimy poem ``Rotating Tombs,'' apparently unaware that the allusion to agriculture has been made to sound more like a lazy susan). In the end, though, the editors have tried to avoid the worst clichs of identity-organized anthologies: fish-out-of-water anecdotes, agitprop, and a sentimental outlook on the homelands. In H.S. Hamod's ``After the Funeral of Assam Hamady,'' the poet is driving his father and grandfather through South Dakota in ``the 1950 Lincoln / ninety miles an hour'' when sunset brings the call to prayer: ``STOP! STOP! /stop this car!'' Hamod's embarrassed refusal to pray makes this American road story a singularly poignant one. A worthy beginner-level introduction to a community of poets seldom acknowledged here.-- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Top Customer Reviews
Altogether, 20 poets are represented. The editors include a brief biography of each poet, together with a selection of his or her work. The short bios offer fascinating glimpses into Arab-American literary history. There are both poems originally written in English, as well as English translations of poems that were originally written in Arabic.
Some of my favorite poems in this anthology are the following: Kahlil Gibran's romantic "Song of the Wave"; Elia Abu Madi's richly evocative love poem "Holiday Present"; D.H. Melhem's painful "To an Ethiopian Child"; Samuel Hazo's "Some Words for President Wilson," which reflects on an iconic U.S. leader; H.S. Hamod's "Dying with the Wrong Name," which deals with Ellis Island and the immigrant experience; and Sharif S. Elmusa's "She Fans the Word," about the joys and wonders of language. This is just a small sampling of the poems in this book.
I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the various ethnic literatures of the United States (African-American, Native American, Jewish American, etc.) but I must admit that "Grape Leaves" really opened my eyes to an ethnic literature about which I have been quite ignorant. In addition to being a fine collection of poetry, "Grape Leaves" reminds us that Arab Americans have been a part of America for a long time. Hopefully this book will help get some recognition for the cultural contributions of Arab Americans.