Lebanon: Poems of Love and War (A Bilingual Anthology)

Lebanon: Poems of Love and War (A Bilingual Anthology)

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Author: Nadia Tueni 

Editor: Christophe Ippolito

Translators: Samuel Hazo and Paul Kelley 

Publisher: Syracuse University Press (2006)

This bilingual anthology, edited by Christophe Ippolito, contains Samuel Hazo's complete translation of Lebanon: Twenty Poems for One Love and Paul B. Kelley's selections from the never-before-translated Sentimental Archives of a War in Lebanon. The Francophone poet Nadia Tueni has devoted readers in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East and has quickly achieved poetic distinction in France. The fluency of her poetic language and motifs―reflecting Tueni's love of her people and country―is illuminated in Ippolito's introduction: "She chose to create a new poetic language that captured the fragile essence of her troubled country and exposed the many crises of identities present in the war. By identifying with her country, she placed herself beyond all parties and created a sacred river that irrigates her poems."

Drawn from two collections that were published during the civil war in Lebanon in 1979 and 1982, these poems are haunted by the Lebanese war: some transcend famous Lebanese locales as the symbolic incarnations of the land's eternal essence; others, illuminated at first by nostalgic memories, take on a prophetic tone. Tueni's work merges the poetic with the political landscape of her country. She writes: " I belong to a country that commits suicide every day, while it is being assassinated."

The languages of Rimbaud, Lautreamont, and surrealist poetry have had a decisive influence on Tueni's poetry. But she also owes a great debt on the Arabic side to the avant-garde poets, for example, the celebrated Adonis. Like many Lebanese writers, Tueni was active in political circles, particularly after the war in 1967. Her poems tell of suffering―"memories of an abandoned garden slip away"―of her own life slipping away, and in the end, the reader is invited to reflect on the mimesis of identity: identity of a country, identity of a woman, each echoing the other.