At no other time in American history has our imagination been so engrossed with the Arab experience. An indispensable and historic volume, Inclined to Speak gathers together poems, from the most important contemporary Arab American poets, that shape and alter our understanding of this experience. These poems also challenge us to reconsider what it means to be American. Impressive in its scope, this book provides readers with an astonishing array of poetic sensibilities, touching on every aspect of the human condition. Whether about culture, politics, loss, art, or language itself, the poems here engage these themes with originality, dignity, and an unyielding need not only to speak, but also to be heard.
Here are thirty-nine poets offering up 160 poems. Included in the anthology are Naomi Shihab Nye, Samuel Hazo, D. H. Melhem, Lawrence Joseph, Khaled Mattawa, Mohja Khaf, Matthew Shenoda, Kazim Ali, Nuar Alsadir, Fady Joudah, and Lisa Suhair Majaj. Charara has written a lengthy introduction about the state of Arab American poetry in the country today and short biographies of the poets and provided an extensive list of further readings.
Inclined to Speak is one of the most fruitfully diverse anthologies I have read in years, as its wealth of origins might lead one to expect. Here are poets in the high tradition of international Modernism, inheritors of Neruda, Hikmet, Celan, Ritsos and Darwish, who also deploy American poetry’s plural possibilities, drawing from the same sources as Stevens, Oppen, Rukeyser, Brooks, Ginsberg, Rich. Some of these poets can think and sing in more than one language: they all can think beyond monoglot frontiers.
Inclined to Speak, especially in this Time, Place & Condition, when most of The Free World's Foreign Policy” consists of Lies, Slander & Invasion is like Wolfbane when you hear the werewolf howling. It opens the door to a world breathing like our own, but adding dimensions that deepen our understanding of where we are and what time it is, that are immense, dreadful and wonderful.
Poetry’s work is the embodiment of individuality, to give form to the singular stuff of subjectivity. By speaking from the vantage of the personal, the poet lends specificity and depth to the collective, complicating the categories, making different lives real to readers. Hayan Charara’s rich anthology of Arab American poetry in this moment couldn’t be more timely; this book opens eyes, opens worlds.
In Inclined to Speak, Hayan Charara has brought together some of the finest American poets who also draw on the powerful sense of what it means to be Arab-American in the twenty-first century. These poems are a kaleidoscope of stories, visions, memories that offer a kind of transcendence we so desperately need right now. This is a marvelous collection that gives readers room to breathe, to fly, to wonder and to cry.