Lean Against This Late Hour

Penguin Books. Apr. 2020. 160p. ISBN 9780143134930. pap. $20.
Accompanied by the Persian originals, this first English-language collection of the renowned Iranian poet’s work comprises 51 sinewy lyrics that evoke a hypnagogic state of consciousness at once ghostly and immediate. “Who has dislocated the world?” he asks, acknowledging the fraying bond between human sensibility and human actions (“I can feel/ how the person who isn’t/ overwhelms/ the person who is”). A lifelong witness to war and oppression in his homeland, Abdolmalekian perceives the constant presence of a dissembling, malevolent force as elemental as air (“life/ which enters from a hidden door every night/ with a dull knife”) yet somehow finds glimmers of beauty and hope among the shadows: “When you are translucent,/ the sky appears in you.”
VERDICT Like Federico García Lorca, an acknowledged influence, Abdolmalekian merges the personal with the political in a semisurreal poetry of troubled nights and harrowing days, exposing the fear and vulnerability we bury with denial, daring to pose the question, “How many times are we born/ that we die/ so many times?” An impressive U.S. debut for a poet whose work invites global recognition.
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