The Moon That Turns You Back: Poems

HarperAudio. Mar. 2024. 1:38 hrs. ISBN 9780063317499. $27.99. POETRY
A heartfelt weariness permeates Alyan’s (The Arsonists’ City) latest self-narrated poetry collection, which meditates on grief, family, and displacement as seen through the lens of the Palestinian diaspora. As she shares her struggle to define home and self, Alyan infuses her narration with an emotional weight that perfectly matches her quietly introspective tone. Unfortunately, aspects of her rich and powerful collection don’t translate well into audio. Some of the works, such as “Love Poem,” are clunky when read aloud due to the phrase “line break” being repeated multiple times. Without the text accompaniment, the poem feels disjointed. Additionally, in “Key,” listeners are presented with a Mad Libs, fill-in-the-blank-style poem. Clearly, Alyan made deliberate format choices to encourage deeper, individual exploration, but this framework loses its impact in audio. Instead of being drawn into the poems, listeners might be confused and feel they are missing much-needed context.
VERDICT Alyan’s audiobook is a solid companion to the print book, but the beauty and impact of her poetry are diminished in the presentation. Better as a listen-along than as a stand-alone.
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