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SO WHAT: New and Selected Poems


Taha Muhammad Ali

Poetry, Copper Canyon Press, 2008

“Taha Muhammad Ali speaks with an emotional forthrightness. . . . He has developed a style that seems both ancient and new, deceptively simple and movingly direct.”

—The Washington Post

Taha Muhammad Ali is a revered Palestinian poet, his work driven by vivid imagination, disarming humor, and unflinching honesty. As a boy he was exiled from his hometown, but rather than turning to a protest poetry of black-and-white slogans to convey this loss, he has created art of the highest order. His poems portray experiences that range from catastrophe to splendor, each preserving an essential human dignity.

Neither music
fame nor wealth,
not even poetry itself,
could provide consolation
for life’s brevity,
or the fact that King Lear
is a mere eighty pages long, and comes to an end,
and for the thought that one might suffer greatly
on account of a rebellious child.

Rights Sold:

USA: Copper Canyon Press; Germany: Fischer Verlag; France: Editions Galaade


“Bittersweet, powerful verse.” —The New York Sun

“A Palestinian Muslim whose own village, Saffuriyya, was obliterated by Israel in 1948… and who has managed to distill from that devastating experience not slogans, not hatred, but art of the highest order.” —The Boston Globe

“Timely and affecting.” —Publishers Weekly

“He writes with the grace and forgiveness of an angel, the humanity of an everyman. Taha’s poems speak the truth without a trace of rancor—with a transcendent hope for reconciliation and redemption.” —Elliott Bay Book Company Staff Pick

“…Muhammad Ali writes unornamented verse that is as moving as it is witty and artfully understated; his humane, conversational tone gradually reveals much psychological and intellectual complexity… These images accurately depict disastrous daily scenes in the Territories, but their significance is all the more compelling because they at once pinpoint and transcend a particular time and place. The words are contemporary, but the tragedy is also very ancient.” —The Antioch Review

“That such wisdom, humor, compassion, tolerance and joy in life as rests at the heart of Ali’s work can emerge from such defeating circumstances is testimony to the best in the human mind. He is an extraordinarily subtle poet… Most impressive is his ability to address serious issues in a tone which never rises to the rhetorical… Ali is a superb poet and prose writer whose ability to imagine the real and to render it in memorable lines is of a very rare kind.” —The Penniless Press

“[Ali] does not merely attempt to convey loss or exile to the reader, but through the honest narration of the story he guides the reader into a historical moment, where the reader is asked to participate… Despite the multiplicity of contradictory emotions and stories captured here, the one that looms largest is the affirmation of beauty and life.”

—Al Jadid

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