Poetry News

Poetry Northwest Reviews Ghayath Almadhoun's Adrenalin

By Harriet Staff
Ghayath Almadhoun_Adrenalin, cover

Adrenalin (Action Books, 2017), by Palestinian-Syrian-Swedish poet and filmmaker Ghayath Almadhoun, is reviewed at Poetry Northwest by Hilary Plum. "Adrenalin is [Almadhoun's] first appearance in English, in Catherine Cobham’s translation," notes Plum. The book maps the distance between Damascus, where the poet was born, and Stockholm, where he currently lives, and maps as well "the violence that distance allows, the violence through which that distance is maintained, and how the poet’s own body may breach it: 'I’ve cleaned my room of any trace of death / so that you don’t feel when I invite you for a glass of wine / that despite the fact I’m in Stockholm / I’m still in Damascus.'" More:

One could say that Adrenalin is “about” the ongoing war in Syria and the Syrian refugee crisis, but only if the word “about” keeps observing a distance between the subject and the act of nearing that subject. Maybe the distance of “aboutness” is what the vehicle of a metaphor is meant to cross, or the distance—vehicle from tenor—in which a metaphor remains suspended. The book’s first poem, “Massacre,” explores this state of suspension, of what remains unreachable—a problem that metaphor proposes and death accepts: “Massacre is a dead metaphor that is eating my friends, eating them without salt. They were poets and have become Reporters With Borders…” The tone is wry and merciless, though the lack of mercy belongs in reality to the subject; the poet’s speech merely approaches it. (And here as throughout the book we appreciate Cobham’s translation, its keen irony and efficient turns.) The “dead metaphor” metastasizes through our politics, ever more lethal: “Massacre opened the door to them when other doors were closed… Massacre is the only one to grant them asylum regardless of their backgrounds.” Massacre claims the poet’s friends, though they belong to it only through resemblance, simulacrum; they are lost to it so that they may never be found under its sign: “Massacre has the same dead features as them… Massacre resembles my friends, but always arrives before them in faraway villages and children’s schools. // Massacre is a dead metaphor that comes out of the television and eats my friends without a single pinch of salt.”

Please find the full review at Poetry Northwest.

Originally Published: June 13th, 2018