Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry From the Middle East, Asia and Beyond

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Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry From the Middle East, Asia and Beyond

By Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar (eds.), W.W. Norton, 2008, paperback, 734 pp. List: $27.95; AET: $20.

Reviewed by Matt Horton



IN THIS AGE of information, poetry is perhaps the most efficient method of expressing grand concepts. Language for a New Century, a collection of contemporary poetry from the Middle East, Asia (including parts of North and East Africa) and its Diaspora, contains one poetic masterpiece after another. Complete with humor, love, anger, despair, confusion, contempt, sadness and joy, the poems open a window into the experience of the world’s most populous continent.

Lovingly compiled by its editors, who are towering artists in their own right, this collection of 400 voices from the “East” is the culmination of six years of research and collaboration with thousands of people in the 55 countries from which the works are drawn. The poems were carefully translated from their 40 original languages into English—many for the first time—by expert regional artists who have succeeded in expressing concepts and ideas often difficult to convey.

The poems contained in this massive volume represent some of the best in their modern craft, and stand in stark contrast to the disposable monotony we slog through in our daily search for truth. Evocative and provocative, familiar and shocking, the poets pose questions more often than they make pronouncements. Eliciting thought and reflection, they challenge the consumer of “information” to instead become an information producer.

Arranged around nine themes related to the human experience, the structure of the book itself combats Orientalism with humanity. It defies borders, many artificial, many imposed, reconnecting regions in a continent where, prior to Western imperialism, war and the modern nation state, identities, ideas and people interacted more fluidly. Events that have transpired in these regions over the past six years have only made the poems’ messages more urgent—and their publication that much more of a triumph. Indeed, Language for a New Century, and the regional networks developed through the work of its tireless collaborators, is likely to bring on a new age of enlightenment; if not for the world, then at least for the reader.

Matt Horton is director of the AET Book Club.


Source: IN THIS AGE of information, poetry is perhaps the most efficient method of expressing grand concepts. Language for a New Century, a collection of contemporary poetry from the Middle East, Asia (including parts of North and East Africa) and its Diaspora, contains one poetic masterpiece after another. Complete with humor, love, anger, despair, confusion, contempt, sadness and joy, the poems open a window into the experience of the world’s most populous continent.

Lovingly compiled by its editors, who are towering artists in their own right, this collection of 400 voices from the “East” is the culmination of six years of research and collaboration with thousands of people in the 55 countries from which the works are drawn. The poems were carefully translated from their 40 original languages into English—many for the first time—by expert regional artists who have succeeded in expressing concepts and ideas often difficult to convey.

The poems contained in this massive volume represent some of the best in their modern craft, and stand in stark contrast to the disposable monotony we slog through in our daily search for truth. Evocative and provocative, familiar and shocking, the poets pose questions more often than they make pronouncements. Eliciting thought and reflection, they challenge the consumer of “information” to instead become an information producer.

Arranged around nine themes related to the human experience, the structure of the book itself combats Orientalism with humanity. It defies borders, many artificial, many imposed, reconnecting regions in a continent where, prior to Western imperialism, war and the modern nation state, identities, ideas and people interacted more fluidly. Events that have transpired in these regions over the past six years have only made the poems’ messages more urgent—and their publication that much more of a triumph. Indeed, Language for a New Century, and the regional networks developed through the work of its tireless collaborators, is likely to bring on a new age of enlightenment; if not for the world, then at least for the reader.

Matt Horton is director of the AET Book Club.

Source: http://www.wrmea.com/archives/Sept_Oct_2008/0809068.html


 

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