A Palestinian Poet’s Elegiac Musings on Exile and Neurosis


Cover of The Twenty-Ninth Year, by Hala Alyan( persona courtesy the publisher)

Hala Alyan’s brand-new verse bible, The Twenty-Ninth Year, a diaristic representation of a woman’s goodbye to her twenties, is an elegy to escape and limbo, driven by a deep loss that has sent the author on an limitless road, searching for love and mean, far from her birthplace of Palestine.

“The exile knows his bones are 206 devices, ” Alyan writes in “Transcend.” “There is a song in each one.”

The lyrics in The Twenty Ninth Year are like so many sad lyrics, broken off like elegant corpses, surrealist mailing-cards from a nomad’s rambles, dark confessions of a battered being.

“Exile is strangely obliging to be considered but dreadful to experience, ” Edward Said wrote in his paper “Reflections on Exile.” “It is the unhealable rift obliged between a human being and a native plaza, between the ego and its genuine dwelling: its indispensable sadness can never be hurdled. And while it is true that literature and record contain daring, dreamy, marvelous, even jubilant occurrences in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling misfortune of estrangement.”

Alyan, who is now thirty and succeeds as a psychologist, cross from Texas highways to Syrian airports, succumbs through Kuwaiti boats and New York suites, New Orleans rivers and Paris hostels, metes, and brothels, be followed by their own families, suitors, and pals. She takes us on a unrelenting undertaking of whisky intoxication, pill-ingesting, thrust famine, chain-smoking, fleeting sexual meetings with women and men, plagiarized cocaine, kleptomania, cigarette burns, blades, grease-guns, and bullets. Opposing anorexia, alcoholism, addiction and misery, the status of women in the poems is frantic for something she cannot find- a hint of grace, a dream of home, a sense of conciliation, God.

In “Armadillo, ” a lyric about her parent’s adventure, she writes: “What do we do with remorse? Tow it.”

Alyan’s work follows an ancestral tradition of nomadic elegy in Arabic poetry. Since pre-Islamic seasons, as regional perimeters fluctuated, poets were active voices for their tribes and societies. As the postcolonial epoch and regional conflict triggered mass migrations from Palestine to Iraq and Lebanon, new different forms of style emerged to indicate uprooted identities. The enormous poets of Arabic modernism, includes the apolitical Adonis( from Syria) and the involved Mahmoud Darwish( from Palestine ), wrote about never-ending hastens, existential distres and the quest for residence.

In 2003, in “Celebrating Childhood, ” Adonis reminisced about his village of Al Qassabin:

I was born in a village/ Small and reticent like a womb/ I never left it ./ I affection the atlantic provinces not the beaches.

But Alyan’s beautiful jumble of words and likeness reimagines the nomadic poet less as a superstar, a troubadour speaking for a people. Her travel takes place on a most intimate, subversive position. Her disturbing affront to the inhibition imposed against Arab and Muslim brides, her shatter of the chagrin that circumvents our virilities and torsoes, her frank exhibition of insult, profanity and los, liberates the genre from its grandiosity, reckoning a truth of the banal that reflects the mortality and insecurity in each and every one of us.

On marriage, she writes in “Gospel: Insomnia” 😛 TAGEND

By wife I want hotel towels I plagiarize to scream into.

I married that white-hot cotton. I married a men as well as was wearing a lily-white dress.

It has been five months and every morning I marry a grey pill.

The man dreams of computer middles. I count the sirens.

And, through the fractured sentences and specious juxtapositions, the strange situations and mad ingenuity, a nightmare emerges: the digest of a Palestinian parties sobbing from their shore, condemned to a lifetime of indifference and yearning.

Alyan is part of a new generation of revolutionary Palestinian women crafting daring new narratives, more than half a century after the Nakba( the’ disaster’, when over 700,000 Palestinians were forcing them to flee their homes by Israelis, most never coming back ). Like sculptor and artist Jumana Manna, artist Emily Jacir, filmmaker Maysaloun Hamoud, rapper Shadia Mansour, and the spokespeople of a wider feminist organizer gesture in Palestine and the Arab world, she has converted the moments of everyday life and diasporic footpaths into stories of an everlasting gender issues and political striving.

In “The Worst Ghosts, ” she writes:

Palestine, a appoint that represents

The worst haunts are the ones that don’t come back

But the shade of Palestine — the recollection of a dreaming homeland — is almighty, engulfing living and marring hopes, moving us even in our outermost flees.

The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan is accessible on Amazon and other booksellers for $11.

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