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Tocqueville (Green Rose Prize) Paperback – April 5, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


In his masterful fourth collection, Khaled Mattawa is concerned, above all, with the ramifications of a new global culture that most American poets have thus far ignored and neglected, partly out of incomprehension, partly out of fear. By setting himself against such timidity, Mattawa offers his most sustained and experimental reckoning with matters of cultural and social witness. Tocqueville is part personal lyric, part jeremiad, part shooting script, and part troubled homage to the great wry chronicler of American society evoked in the book's title. It is a book of relentless invention that is also relentlessly urgent and that is a very rare thing indeed. Khaled Mattawa is, quite simply, one of the finest, fiercest, and most original poets of his generation. --David Wojahn

Tocqueville names the names, walks the walk, and definitely talks the talk. Here's a book of marvelous poems for our times; its textured complexity radiates and sings. --Yusef Komunyakaa

Tocqueville, living up to the truthful irony implicit in its title, is politically astute, formally daring, grips the reader with an intelligence that spotlights, too, its sensual and emotional (and historical) accuracy. --Marilyn Hacker

About the Author

KHALED MATTAWA was born in Benghazi, Libya in 1964 and immigrated to the U.S. in his teens. He is the author of three previous books of poetry, Ismailia Eclipse (Sheep Meadow, 1995), Zodiac of Echoes (Ausable, 2003), and Amorisco (Ausable, 2008). Mattawa has translated eight volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry and co-edited two anthologies of Arab American literature. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, an NEA translation grant, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the PEN American Center Poetry Translation Prize, and three Pushcart Prizes. Mattawa teaches in the MFA (Creative Writing) Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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Product Details

  • Series: Green Rose Prize
  • Paperback: 71 pages
  • Publisher: New Issues Poetry & Prose; First edition (April 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1930974906
  • ISBN-13: 978-1930974906
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 5.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,146,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A 71-page collection of wry poetry drawn for keen observation of American society, "Tocqueville" is Khaled Mattawa's fourth anthology and continues to document him as an exceptionally skilled wordsmith who combines the lyric qualities of written expression with a remarkable perception of an American dominated global culture especially afforded to someone born in Benghazi, Libya, in 1964 and only immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. "Tocqueville" is especially commended to the attention of those who appreciate a political astuteness combined with a genuine talent for a well crafted composition and scripting layout on paper provides a visual composition that works smoothly to enhance the ideas and word images in the mind's eye of the reader.
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By reader on November 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
Despite my Bunkered Heart:
Khaled Mattawa's Tocqueville
New Issues: Kalamazoo, MI, 2010. 72 pages. $15.00.
Khaled Mattawa's fourth collection of poetry, Tocqueville, answers to its title, bearing witness to consequences of US foreign and domestic policy. The endeavor is "enough to turn a reporter into a novelist, / and the novelist toward myth for rescue / and the poet running toward the white heat of his soul / fed on the fuel of indignation." Tocqueville journeys within and beyond American borders, its setting the years of the US war on Iraq--a world in which technological advancement and media sophistication have become atrocities of shock and awe. Mattawa's poems bring us a Chevron tanker named for Condoleezza Rice, Somalian war stories, Vietnamese sweatshops, child pornography, torture, suicide bombers, "Abel's / blood streaming endless from your veins."

Formally, the poems in Tocqueville range from lyric prose to PowerPoint presentations, documentary film scripts, and conversations with a shrink. Mattawa's lenses pan over, click through, devastating historical and political content, but seek out the individual: "The village women carry the moon on their heads. // Each carrying a piece. // Or each carrying her own moon." He joins a rigorously nuanced political vision with a lyrical mythos, a sense of "a world now, a world then." The final poem, "Before," insists, "Somewhere beyond faith and grace there is / the footprint of logic lost in the purest light," and the collection frequently finds the classical in the contemporary. Even in many of the poems' dense, wide-ranging experimentation--complete with matrices and graphics--Mattawa foregrounds the continuity between the present-day political world and the mythic.
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Format: Paperback
"Tocqueville" Review
Tocqueville, the new collection from Libyan poet Khaled Mattawa, designates itself as the missive of a bold, cultural diplomat; tackling uniquely Western concepts and queries with a uniquely foreign-born mind-set and sensibility. Much like the figure his title pays homage to, he observes this new world as an outsider, bringing order to the strange and self-contradictory whole of Western culture. And, on the whole, it succeeds.
What begins as a delicate collection with the gentle, enchanting first poem, "Lyric", quickly become pointed and savage with the sharp "Ecclesiastes"; much of the book continues on in this pattern. "Ecclesiastes" is a particularly strong, moving indictment of our culture; riffing off of the series of biblical platitudes by pointing out the dark, capitalistic tricks that could exploit those who believe in them. An example: "The rule is you don't care if they find it/ The trick is that they feel they can." Mattawa is wildly inventive and subversive; pointing out cruel parallels and interesting anomalies that lurk around us all.
One of his more interesting constructions are his "Power Points," which incorporate various conventions of story-telling and illustration (ranging from film script layout to elaborate charts) that mathematicize and exfoliate moral dilemmas and wrong-doings. His diction is often astonishing. Mattawa has an eye for truly stunning, well-phrase imagery, which shines in "Power Point 1," as he speaks of "a catharsis that hurls us screaming unto the street, our faces coated with history."
While on the whole consistent in high caliber, challenging poetry, Mattawa very occasionally oversteps into trenches of pure, non-poetic rhetoric, which is jarring but doesn't over-power the potency of the work as a whole.
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Format: Paperback
Khaled Mattawa's Tocqueville is a collection of poems that reflect on American democracy from an outsider's perspective. The title is a reference to Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political thinker and historian who wrote Democracy in America. This book not only observed American politics, but also American society. Like Alexis de Tocqueville, Mattawa seems to be both fascinated and repelled by American democracy. His poems simultaneously evoke a both a hopefulness and a dismay for the state of democracy and society in America. His poems paint a sympathetic and woeful portrait of America, laden with sad descriptions of its inhabitants and landscapes (among Mattawa's political assessments), that we aren't often given the opportunity to see. The fact that Mattawa himself is not from America allows us as readers to become removed from our surroundings, take a view of ourselves from the outside, and see how we look from a distance. Mattawa plays with different formats for his poetry throughout the book, at times, incorporating charts and text boxes in the style of a PowerPoint presentation. One poem, "On the Difficulty of Documentation," is even comprised solely of lines from other poets. Mattawa's Tocqueville is a very relevant poetry collection that speaks to an age of globalization in a manner that is not too heavy-handed, gentle in its descriptions of a virtual wasteland, and perhaps overly sensitive to its surely American readers.
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