The Conference of the Birds

51fzz9mvysl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Translated by Sholeh Wolpé
W. W. Norton & Company, 2017

Considered by Rumi to be “the master” of Sufi mystic poetry, Attar is best known for his epic poem The Conference of the Birds, an allegorical tale about the soul’s search for meaning. The poem recounts the perilous journey of the world’s birds to the faraway peaks of Mount Qaf―a mythical mountain that wraps around the earth―in search of the mysterious Simurgh, their king. Attar’s beguiling anecdotes and humor intermingle the sublime with the mundane, the spiritual with the worldly, and the religious with the metaphysical. Reflecting the entire evolution of Sufi mystic tradition, Attar’s poem models the soul’s escape from the mind’s rational embrace. (Publisher’s Description)

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-American poet and writer. She is the recipient of the PEN/Heim Grant, the Midwest Book Award, and the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize, among others.

Dark Hope

51dydcm7gkl-_sx322_bo1204203200_By David Shulman
University of Chicago Press, 2007

In Dark Hope, American-born Israeli David Shulman takes readers into the heart of violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Dark Hope is an eye-opening chronicle of Shulman’s work as a member of the peace group Ta‘ayush, which takes its name from the Arabic for “living together.” Though Shulman never denies the complexity of the issues fueling the conflict—nor the culpability of people on both sides—he forcefully clarifies the injustices perpetrated by Israel by showing us the human dimension of the occupation. Here we meet Palestinians whose houses have been blown up by the Israeli army, shepherds whose sheep have been poisoned by settlers, farmers stripped of their land by Israel’s dividing wall. We watch as whip-swinging police on horseback attack crowds of nonviolent demonstrators, as Israeli settlers shoot innocent Palestinians harvesting olives, and as families and communities become utterly destroyed by the unrelenting violence of the occupation.

David Shulman was born in Iowa but moved to Israel in 1967 at the age of eighteen. Named MacArthur Fellow in 1987, Shulman is the author or coauthor of nineteen books. (Publisher’s description)

Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and beyond

51kqao1hqgl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Edited by: Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal,
and Ravi Shankar
V.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008

This ambitious yet accessible gathering of hundreds of poets from various parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, America, and elsewhere is likely to excite poetry fans as well as those new to poetry. Divided into nine idiosyncratic sections—with titles like “Bowl of Air and Shivers” that cover topics including Eros and the meeting of the political and the personal—the book is more an esoteric journey than a systematic reference. Readers may recognize the names of major international figures (Nazim Hikmet, Taha Muhammad Ali) and famous American writers (Michael Ondaatje, Li-Young Lee), who may draw attention to many writers unknown in the U.S., such as Hsien Min Toh of Singapore, who, upon seeing sport hunters shooting crows, awakens to an all-too-familiar ambivalence about “my unkind nation, in whose name only I will be/ able to walk up the lane with lowered head.” While the book’s sheer size can be overwhelming, it is packed with treasures. (Publishers Weekly)

The Steel Veil

51yybgscnvl-_sx331_bo1204203200_By Jack Marshall
Coffee House Press, 2008

Jack Marshall’s new poems wed depictions of Middle Eastern widows “behind veils heavy / as the steel / veil of empire” with expressions of personal grief and political outrage. Marshall’s distinctive voice and elegant lyrics unite this multilayered collection.

Born in 1936 to Jewish parents who emigrated from Iraq and Syria, Jack Marshall grew up in New York and lives in California. His previous work includes his memoir, From Baghdad to Brooklyn, and works of poetry. (Publisher’s description)

Does the Land Remember Me: A Memoir of Palestine

51v0uhvnsll-_sy344_bo1204203200_By Aziz Shihab
Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Summoned by his dying mother, Palestinian-born Aziz Shihab returns from Texas to the homeland he and his family fled as refugees decades earlier. He finds an Israeli-occupied land no longer the one of his youth. This gripping book chronicles his month-long journey to capture a piece of the land that haunts him, revealing the complexities of leaving behind the past and coming to grips with its abandonment. With his sharp ear for dialogue and his professional journalist’s eye, Shihab records and considers, sometimes with humor, the Palestinian psyche. (Publisher’s description)
Aziz Shihab is known for his independent newspaper, The Arab Star. He has written about the Middle East for the Dallas Morning News and the San Antonio Express-News.