by Zeina Hashem Beck
« 2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner »
3arabi Song is a song of sorrow and joy, death and dance. Yes there is unrest, war, and displacement in countries like Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Egypt. But there is also survival, music, and love. Iconic Arab singers like Umm Kulthum, Fairuz, and Abdel Halim Hafez, inhabit these poems—they mourn and celebrate. So do children, parents, refugees, and lovers. These poems want to hum you stories that straddle the personal and the political, in an English riddled with Arabic words. The voices in them want to mourn for loved ones and broken homelands, but they also want to sing, as Asmahan does, “inta inta imta—you you when / will you know I love you.”
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Praise for 3arabi Song
Rarely does poetry seem to matter more than while reading the work of Zeina Hashem Beck—a poet of immense talent and passion who is clearly at the beginning of a long and important literary career. 3arabi Song is a book of displacement and connection, of gravity and grace, and the human music that binds us all together. It’s a tribute to the Arab world and Arab singers, to refugees and refusal, to hope and home, to sorrow and song. Like no other collection we’ve read, these poems feel absolutely necessary. This little book will break your heart and then mend it.
“Give me your pain and I will break it into quarter notes.” From the beginning, 3arabi Song opens the broken world and finds the shards beneath shimmering with beauty and hope. These poems ache with the music of reverie, balm for a torn country where grief and loss are as common as prayer. War, ritual, songs on the radio, lovers, friends and family all echo in this haunting collection, the poems calling us to return over and over, to endure, like the mother who urges, “‘Don’t be afraid, just sing it,’ …/ ‘Sabbouha means Sabah means morning,’/ she said. Not mourning with a ‘u.’ Yes, that thing that shines.”
These poems are brilliantly balanced between languages, between nostalgia and news, between Self and Other. I could read them over and over like, well, playing a favourite Fairouz record, but here the words are the music and the words recreate a world I love, savour and mourn.
•“This Country: Ghazal for Abdel Halim Hafez” in Rattle online
•“Pantoum for Sabbouha” in Rattle online
•“Ya’aburnee” in Rattle’s Poets Respond
•“Ghazal: Back Home” in Rattle’s Poets Respond
•“Adhan” in 32 Poems
•“3arabi Song” performed live with the Fayha Choir in Lebanon, live on YouTube:
About the Author
Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. Her first collection, To Live in Autumn, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize. She’s also the author of the chapbook There Was and How Much There Was, a smith|doorstop Laureate’s Choice, selected by Carol Ann Duffy. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Forward Prize, and has appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, and The Rialto, among others. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Dubai, where she has founded and runs PUNCH, a poetry and open mic collective. Zeina is a strong performer of her poetry, and has participated in literary festivals in the Middle East, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (website)
Cover art by Yazan Halwani
“Arabic Musicalligraphy,” ink on paper, A4
Cover price: $6.00
Chapbook: 40 pages
Size: 6″ x 9″