Another Review of Diwan Ifrikiya

A further review, this one by Amish Trivedi,  of Vol. 4 just out in the Attica Review. Opening paras below, the rest here.

POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM, VOL. 4

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0 Comments 28 June 2013

Poems for the Millennium, Volume Four
The University of California Book of North African Literature
Edited by Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour
University of California Press, 2013
$39.95, 792 pp.
Reviewed by Amish Trivedi

Trivedi

In an interview with Leonard Schwartz for Cross-Cultural Poetics [1], Pierre Joris discusses how he was introduced to North African poetry, first by proximity to writers and then by moving to Algeria himself. In the fourth volume of University of California’s Poems for the Millennium series, Joris and collaborator Habib Tengour attempt to give us the same experience by throwing us into the middle of North Africa’s vibrant cultural, historical and literary scene. They introduce us to poets whose names we may well have never discovered if it were not for this volume.

When Americans ask why literature is important, especially literature outside of the United States, this volume of Poems for the Millennium gives us the answer: literature is the remnant of everything that has happened. Wars, cultural shifts like the introduction of Islam to formerly tribal cultures and the redrawing of lines by foreign powers who invaded with the goal of expansion in mind– these things come into the poetics of an area and become part of the consciousness of the people there.

Here is where Joris and Tengour truly succeed with this anthology: they not only give us the poems which have remained part of the culture of the area but they also give us the historical context in which the work exists. While we learn that we should look at the page and nothing else, we cannot overlook the role of poetry in history and that of history in poetry. While the role of poetry in pop culture is greatly diminished (if it was ever there to begin with), these poems function as a way to remember the experience of the moments created by event.

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Comment on “Another Review of Diwan Ifrikiya”

  1. Poetry will never be “diminished” as long as P. Joris is pounding the keys or encouraging a pencil across a slip of paper.

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