Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Poetry Review: Poetic Injustice

I never knew death/ until I saw the bombing/ of a refugee camp

With these three lines, (from the poem, “A Poem for Gaza”), Remi Kanazi opens his collection of poems, Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine. The message is clear: this ain’t no romance poetry book!

As the title of the book suggests, the poet makes no secret of shaping these pieces to be raw expressions of the injustice that Palestinian people face on a daily basis. In fact, in one of the blurbs promoting the book, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges writes, “There is more truth, and perhaps finally more news, in Remi Kanazi’s poems than the pages of your daily newspaper or the sterile reports flashed across your screens.”

Besides poems about daily life/struggle in Palestine, other themes that are explored throughout the book are Palestinian-American Identity, War, and American Chauvinism.

Kanazi seems to write his best lines in pieces where he talks about coming of age in America, perhaps because these kinds of pieces force him to be as honest as possible. For instance, in the poem “Home,” he says:

still can’t comprehend
why kids in my neighborhood
picked on David
for being Jewish
was ten years old
the first time someone
called me a sand nigger
and I don’t hate the town
I grew up in
but I don’t forget
those experiences either

And later in the same poem, this observation is shared: “don’t feel the need/ to dream up an alternative/ American childhood/ as if America’s vision/ ever intended to include me.”

The collection lacks a proper amount of poetic elements, but still manages to have stanzas like the following, which provide an image in the last lines that is both sad and beautiful at the same time:

I can’t remember his face
they never told me his name
parents hugged the sky
hoping to feel him
once more

One of the special things this book includes is a collection 48 three-line poems for Palestine that are divided into four sections, (each of which represents one of the poet’s displaced grandparents). These very short poems retell memories, offer creative metaphors, or sometimes just sound good. For instance, my favorite one, (from the Leonie section):

She doesn’t want the American dream
or the Palestinian dream
She just wants to dream

The other special thing about this book is that it includes a CD with the author reading 15 of the pieces, which only enhances this collection because many of the poems are spoken-word pieces that deserve to be heard, not just read.

I can only hope that more people will discover this young poet; and that said poet provide us with more of his work.

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