Review of Exile Me (Seyed Morteza Hamidzadeh)

Another Stitch in the Tapestry

Every culture and language has something worth contributing to the literary tapestry, and Hamidzadeh’s new book, Exile Me, is no different. First, a note on the layout. While the collection runs almost two hundred pages long, it contains only 36 poems. Certainly, though a bilingual presentation automatically doubles the length, I felt deceived that what amounts to barely more than a chapbook got packaged as a full collection. Certainly, this does not retract from the content per se, but this collection has so much air in it from its compilation that it lent a subtle hollowness to the experience at times. A collection like this should give the reader less time to breathe for its seriousness.

Hamidzadeh: the Kind of Voice the West Needs More Of

That aside, the subject matter, something most Americans probably have little exposure to from firsthand voices, stays the lynchpin of this book’s puzzle. At times haunting, with the prevailing shadow of war hanging dreadful over each word, the biggest crutch is the translation, which at times reads clunky and creates strange syntax and diction where I must assume the original Farsi retains more elegance and poeticism. Literalization is the great serial killer of poetry and at times rears its ugly head here.

Yet this collection clinches much beauty, with lines such as, “My wife, / Sings lullabies to our child / Tomorrow there will be war.” Simple glimpses of life under war’s constant shroud rise throughout Hamidzadeh’s poetry, and ultimately make this a worthy read. For example, this stunning end to a poem, “Cool down / Only the wings of some flies / Wipe away the dust / Of your bodies.” The book speaks of the conflict, tragedy, pain, and distress that war wreaks upon a body and its mind. In this way, its faults mostly take a back seat. Hamidzadeh, while never straying into the ultra-graphic, almost becomes more effervescent for his portrayal of war-ridden life with ultra-humanity, honesty, and requisite bleakness. No punches get pulled.

Conclusion

Exile Me, while its English translation and presentation leave something to be desired, remains an important starting point for those unaware of or unengaged with modern Iranian writing and the environment central to that art’s creation.

Exile Me is published by Maudlin House.

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