Daredevil poems from a Palestine of war, Asmaa Azaizeh's poems derive their power from the wrath and sadness of memories and the history of war. It throws itself between fear and the joy of life.
* Aase Berg reads a Palestinian brutalist realist *
Anger does not always give birth to anger. Violence does not always give birth to violence. On the contrary, one can get in the brilliant mood of reading an insane book, and feel both disaster, joy and dystopian triumph. Just as it is with Asmaa Azaizeh's newly published collection of poems "Don't Believe Me When I Talk To You Of War".
Azaizeh is a resident of Haifa and runs a Palestinian cultural centre and as Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, she lives in a kind of inverted exile. Perhaps it is by geographical / political necessity that her poetic-self is a boundary-breaking trickster.
The poem-hunt moves through environments and time layers, a funny and unreliable narrator who dares to take the risk of turning into an unsympathetic and even cruel quest, a poetry that derives its power from the anger and sadness of memories and war history.
Translator Jasim Mohamed almost always manages to keep up with her curvature; nothing less than an examination of the equally innovative and grotesque metaphors.
Azaizeh begins by being generally aggressive and seeing the reader's expectations of cliché-like poetic dramaturgy and pompous metaphorics - “All bland parables and every word I would fill your ears with as I work in my neon-lit office: the night, the day, the trees, the bird , the clouds, the grass, the sun, etc".
Having already slaughtered the cliché apparatus on page one, she approaches the war as a theme, and arrives at an equally obvious as shocking basic attitude: "The truth is that our selves are more vicious than war." And later develops this statement: for example, “ I would have been a killer if only the dinosaur of fear had not crept under my skin every time I could smell a close wound".
The book's title is interesting, it implies that she is not only the speaker but also someone else. The collection of poems itself cannot be reduced to trauma, rather she throws herself between fear and joy of life. Or so: Hell is temporarily recurring, while the joy of life is constant. Which does not stop the path to joy going through hell. Or through the lie. Hanna Nordenhök writes in the afterword that the poet often acts "as a liar, a traitor whose parables unabashedly blasphemes reality. And just as necessary, blasphemy is depicted. ”Azaizeh juggles an absurd and a cruel and unpleasant animal metaphor, where the scene of a "grand circus” is populated by "hungry leopards" being eaten by hyenas in another image, raw as meat.
The poem-hunt also transforms into an animal: "My family bumped me away when my smile transformed into extravagant howling, when I saw men's hearts changing and eating my children before they were born”.
Despite the wild imagery, Azaizeh is a hard-nosed brutal realist who does not use the madness to win but to learn to lose everything, and relinquish all victories, especially the "victory over evil".
The poem-hunt does not label itself or others as victims or perpetrators, not even in the war, or in her own words, the "murder party". It is a provocative attitude in our polarised era, but in its confrontation the mix of evil and good also evoke a nuanced reflection. A sentence like "See how fear falls in safety" can be interpreted as many people turning a blind eye to oppression and the culture of silence, at the same time as they see themselves as innocent or even good, and that this is a form of passive violence that ultimately leads to the right to drive to hell.
The human race is a bestial animal flock, the varnish of civilization is thin, and the desperate anger of the poet does not lead to a happy ending, but it guarantees survival and possibly a stroke of freedom. For what it's worth, as Azaizeh writes: "We survived the Big Bang / thus we missed our first chance to get away".