This third collection from Lebanese poet Hashem Beck (Louder Than Hearts) examines issues of faith, family, aging, and mental health using a variety of expertly executed forms, including odes, triptychs, ghazals (a lyric form originating in Arabic literature), and bilingual duet poems in which Arabic and English “exist separately and in relationship to each other.” The collection begins with a poem titled “Ghazal: With Prayer” that explores prayer in both general and more personal terms, laying the groundwork for the rest of the book: “In the museum of memory, the missing accumulate./ They carve through the tiles like grass blades, eager, damp & new with prayer.” Hashem Beck also scatters personal details throughout a series of endearing poems on children, spouses, friendships, and illness. On complications after her daughter’s birth, she says: “Two doses of surfactant & a central IV. O but your eyes:/ how you breathed with them.”
VERDICT Hashem Beck does a brilliant job of blending the personal with larger themes, and readers will find themselves transported by this collection, whether it be to a dermatologist’s office or Babel or an olive tree from the past, with initials carved into its trunk. For most collections.
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