arab american book award winner

It is unusual that the deeply private in American poetry connects to the immensely public at the world stage. It is even a rarer event when this is accomplished with such clarity and disarming language. American poetry needs to pay attention to this book and celebrate the expansive tender vision of Hayan Charara. His poems feed us what we want, and what we think we want, because the poems have made a pact with us: that they will also offer us what we fear. And we accept it all because ultimately this is a book of fearless love. I cannot stop rereading these poems, every one of them so heartbreaking and illuminating, especially “Usage,” a work of such brilliance it will be read for decades to come.

— Fady Joudah

Each time I read Hayan Charara’s insightful, tragic, loving book, and am witness myself to his acts of witness, the chill of poetry runs down my spine and up into my scalp. This necessary work is not like any other, from the short surreal poems that come unflinchingly back to specific human truth to the long “Usage” and its Whitmanian catalogue of what is done to us with daily language.  

—Marilyn Hacker

How can one adequately praise this book? Its modest tone, narrating the elegies, disappointments, and wistful joys of existence cannot withhold the unique power of Charara's sensibility. Accepting us as companions on his journey of growth and healing, he reveals his regard for all creatures, humans and pets, as it refines the dimensions of his own heart. Profundity emerges organically, culled from and delivered in the inflections of daily life. Among his unflinching views of family, the poet's indelible poems to his mother and the confrontation of lost love retrieve both the wisdom of closure and the truth that some griefs can be transformed, not lessened. The Sadness of Others will not leave the hearth of one's consciousness.

 –D.H. Melhem

The Sadness of Others gives us understated, unflinching snapshots of what's finally real about life's changes–going from one home to another, one marriage to another, the moment you discover you forgive someone, and the deprivation you'll never quite mourn: motherlessness. Too damn young to write this well, Hayan Charara uses all his technique to achieve one end: breaking the reader's heart. 

–Diana Goetsch

Hayan Charara is a star–follow him.  

–Naomi Shihab Nye

The place is a city–a magic city–of machines, of cars, of motors. The person is American and is Arab. The sensibility is one of sense and of feeling. The ethics are true and are tough. Alchemy, you know, was to the Greeks, “The Egyptian art,” identified with the land of Khem–the land of 'black earth.' Enter the transmutations of The Alchemist's Diary to see precisely what I mean.  

–Lawrence Joseph

Hayan Charara's debut collection, The Alchemist's Diary, is the work of a poet who possesses a healthy dose of humility and openness to both the wonder and terror of this world. It's a world where everything is suspect, everyone a suspect for crimes real or imagined. These poems are about history and not forgetting, but they are about re-remembering too. Charara understands that it sometimes takes a long time to get the memories right so that we can move forward, either turning our back on those memories or carrying them with us. He writes “we sometimes choose what stays with us.” These poems, both hard-bitten and meditative, capture beautifully the struggle to make those choices. While many of these poems are torn apart by loss, it is memory which stitches them back together. Freeways and dandelions. The impossibility of the lives there, the miracle of survival. For Hayan Charara, every city is a holy city, every heart a holy hear.

–Jim Daniels