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Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond

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A landmark anthology, providing the most ambitious, far-reaching collection of contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern poetry available. Language for a New Century celebrates the artistic and cultural forces flourishing today in the East, bringing together an unprecedented selection of works by South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian poets as well as poets A landmark anthology, providing the most ambitious, far-reaching collection of contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern poetry available. Language for a New Century celebrates the artistic and cultural forces flourishing today in the East, bringing together an unprecedented selection of works by South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian poets as well as poets living in the Diaspora. Some poets, such as Bei Dao and Mahmoud Darwish, are acclaimed worldwide, but many more will be new to the reader. The collection includes 400 unique voices—political and apolitical, monastic and erotic—that represent a wider artistic movement that challenges thousand-year-old traditions, broadening our notion of contemporary literature. Each section of the anthology—organized by theme rather than by national affiliation—is preceded by a personal essay from the editors that introduces the poetry and exhorts readers to examine their own identities in light of these powerful poems. In an age of violence and terrorism, often predicated by cultural ignorance, this anthology is a bold declaration of shared humanity and devotion to the transformative power of art.


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A landmark anthology, providing the most ambitious, far-reaching collection of contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern poetry available. Language for a New Century celebrates the artistic and cultural forces flourishing today in the East, bringing together an unprecedented selection of works by South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian poets as well as poets A landmark anthology, providing the most ambitious, far-reaching collection of contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern poetry available. Language for a New Century celebrates the artistic and cultural forces flourishing today in the East, bringing together an unprecedented selection of works by South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian poets as well as poets living in the Diaspora. Some poets, such as Bei Dao and Mahmoud Darwish, are acclaimed worldwide, but many more will be new to the reader. The collection includes 400 unique voices—political and apolitical, monastic and erotic—that represent a wider artistic movement that challenges thousand-year-old traditions, broadening our notion of contemporary literature. Each section of the anthology—organized by theme rather than by national affiliation—is preceded by a personal essay from the editors that introduces the poetry and exhorts readers to examine their own identities in light of these powerful poems. In an age of violence and terrorism, often predicated by cultural ignorance, this anthology is a bold declaration of shared humanity and devotion to the transformative power of art.

30 review for Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond

  1. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    I don't want freedom gram by gram, grain by grain. I have to break this steel chain with my teeth! I don't want freedom as a drug, as a medicine, I want it as the sun, as the earth, as the heavens! Step, step aside, you invader! I am the loud voice of this land! I don't need a puny spring, I am thirsting for oceans! Khalil Reza Ulutruk - The Voice of Africa This collection is essential to anyone with even the slightest inclinations towards poetry. This is a collection that transcends all boundaries, be t I don't want freedom gram by gram, grain by grain. I have to break this steel chain with my teeth! I don't want freedom as a drug, as a medicine, I want it as the sun, as the earth, as the heavens! Step, step aside, you invader! I am the loud voice of this land! I don't need a puny spring, I am thirsting for oceans! Khalil Reza Ulutruk - The Voice of Africa This collection is essential to anyone with even the slightest inclinations towards poetry. This is a collection that transcends all boundaries, be them political boundaries, race, religion, gender, et al. and delivers poetry like the blood that pumps through the veins of humanity and not individual classification. Collecting poems and poets from across the globe, though focusing on those centered in the Middle East and East Asia, Language for a New Century is precisely what the title implies: a powerful cry of voices long unheard for the freedom and love of all. These are potent voices that are relatively unheard of in the Western world and remind us to look beyond our comfort zone, to look beyond our borders and feel the love and frustration and sheer determination of will for the goodness of humanity that beats in the hearts of those around the world. Instead of diving the book by region, which would ultimately oppose the intentions of worldwide acceptance and unity that this book so wonderfully delivers, the poems are divided into segments of ideas. Each segment is introduced by heartfelt and heartwrenching essays by the editors that emphasize globalization and the pains inflicted upon those subject to those who view the world by race or creed instead of accepting us all as worthwhile human beings. It is a plea for peace and understanding in a modern world where ignorance of others and foreign cultures and the fear that brings can have hurtful or even deadly consequences. Each poem is a window into the world and allows one to walk in the shoes of another that may be quite different from them, and this is a worthwhile an important notion we should all pay heed to. In the modern day of social media and instant worldwide news, it is essential that we respect others and try to understand one another before we pass judgement. We live in a world where the borders are vague, as is exemplified in the breathtaking poem Two Voices by Diana Der-Hovanessian. In what language do I pray? Do I meditate in language? In what language am I trying to speak when I wake from dreams? Do I think of myself as an American, or simply as a woman when I wake? Or do I think of the date and geography I wake into, as woman? ..... Do I think of myself as hyphenated? No. Most time, even as you, I forget labels. Unless you cut me. Then I look at the blood. It speaks Armenian. A particularly moving section of the book begins with an essay on 9/11 in America. Americans are reminded that this was a critical modern attack on American soil but that millions around the world exist in violent periods of aggression and war throughout their daily lives in their 'entrails of cities.' Those of us living in the seemingly-safe suburbs or regions free of daily conflict forget that the loss of loved ones at the bite of a bullet are commonplace for others.Coming Home at Night - Joko Pinurbo (Indonesia) We arrived late at night. The bed was burnt and the flames, which had spread throughout the room continue to roar. Upon the wreckage of dreams and ruins of time our bodies char and disintegrate, as fire turns them into smoke and ash. We are a pair of corpses wanting to hold each other forever and to sleep at peace in the bed's embrace. For any lover of poetry, or any lover of humanity, this collection of poetry is essential. It reminds us that we are all part of the human race and that it is imperative to see beyond our personal boundaries, to understand and love one another. The range of poets is very impressive and spans many countries (India is represented the most, and ex-patriots living in America second, though there is an astonishing collection of otherwise unheard of poets from the Middle East and East Asia, and translated by wonderful well-known names such as W.S. Merwin), knocking down the boundaries and reminding us that we are all not so different from one another. We all live, love, desire and die, and all these are represented in gorgeous prose across this thick volume of poetry. We live in a world where people are persecuted for their race or religion, chastised for their differences, and murdered for their beliefs; this collection reminds us to treat one another with respect and urges us to understand others before we judge them. We all must share this planet, lets please do so with love and goodwill towards all. 5/5 Blowjob - Amir Or In the beginning there was only desire, they say. And then some. The lips that clung to this dick suckle now, blind with rapture, a live dildo, a hard-on Truth, the deeper the more blessed, the more the deeper. Later, blue as well. The hand that was tied with the black stocking between the legs, the groin tucked in flayed hide (dressed and dyed), the whip up the ass will leave nothing but doubt. And primarily the grip. The involuntary gagging motions take a small death first before begging for more only more deeper: heat up the blue rim. Pull the trigger.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    How does release from what you love become "unequivocal freedom" Twenty-seven dollars and ninety-five cents; that is a cost of a world. Not including tax or later library accommodation, a gleam of the best and brights save for some reason, some how, someone withdrew the world, setting the place to the path where I would pick it up for a buck. The world is most easily accessible through the kills of propaganda, less accessible through quiz quests of geography, even littler so in immigration of their lives How does release from what you love become "unequivocal freedom" Twenty-seven dollars and ninety-five cents; that is a cost of a world. Not including tax or later library accommodation, a gleam of the best and brights save for some reason, some how, someone withdrew the world, setting the place to the path where I would pick it up for a buck. The world is most easily accessible through the kills of propaganda, less accessible through quiz quests of geography, even littler so in immigration of their lives. If real is the bottom and classic's the top, there's also defensive measures for the latter. Specialization, appropriation, grants, funds, pride, socioeconomic survival of forlorn linguistics made only so by contrast of heart and hate crimes. Singapore. Beirut. Philippines. Taiwan. These are the poems that spoke to me. Indonesia. Japan. Armenia. Turkmenistan. What do you recognize as worth your time? Korea. Lebanon. Israel. India. Drone strikes make a small world smaller. I do not read for expertise, I do not read for fact. I do not read for rhyme nor reason Least not for ones I've known. Not oft drowned in poetry, but from what I've seen in class one nation one language one gender aspired complacency is death. Food and sex and violence sprung farther than eye can see. How do you pick your comfort zone for resting mind and heart? Many a canon you do not know, will never know in fact. Translation's a beast, or so they say a shame for Bible-bound. I refuse to wait for humanity to be served up on a plate. Fresh and pressed, Anglophized, your money or your life. Will you wait to seek your bload soaked hands when all the grinding stops? Here's a hint: it never ends not here not there not now. Babies born beyond our ken sainthood's never shown. Shy away from piercing soul cupidity of ebola. You can no longer laugh at this or that, the commerce of my soil. Whether it is the same for you I cannot tell, a variation on the theme of this. No simplicity of blood bone and flesh, no demographic sum. Come, you previous generations, deriders of my patience. Try your hand at history you've wrought on this the online land. Love's a belittled word for it lest you grip your throat and cry. Find a grasp of frozen sea, this lovely work of life. Hold the heart. Imagine it is yours. But do not take my word for it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Peto

    While not a complete barbarian (I attended a land grant university after swapping two years of my life with the US Army during the Cold War for eight semesters of college payments.), I dunno if I’m up to this. Learned scholars beware, especially any of the 400+ poets from “The Middle East, Asia, and Beyond” included in this anthology. However, since displaying ignorance and half-understandings publicly is de rigueur, I figure the worst thing that can happen if I attempt this review is I’ll clinc While not a complete barbarian (I attended a land grant university after swapping two years of my life with the US Army during the Cold War for eight semesters of college payments.), I dunno if I’m up to this. Learned scholars beware, especially any of the 400+ poets from “The Middle East, Asia, and Beyond” included in this anthology. However, since displaying ignorance and half-understandings publicly is de rigueur, I figure the worst thing that can happen if I attempt this review is I’ll clinch the Republican nomination for President, so here I go. My brainstorm for this review had over 400 words so this may be one of my longest reviews in awhile. (I think it is my longest review ever.) That fits, I suppose. Inspired to take some kind of action after the events of September 11, 2001, the editors of this anthology spent six years with countless others, I presume, putting it together. I bought the anthology a year ago and have been moving a bookmark steadily through it since. I am not the best reader/appreciator of poems, or the worst. Reading this was a marathon. Like any long run, it had its ups and downs. I don’t mean the poems; none struck me as worthless. It was a long run because I had to strategize. At first, before reading a poem, I read the biographies of poets and/or translators included in the back, every time. Then I began to skip the biography unless moved by the poem to read it. Some days I read only one poem. Sometimes I reread it and gave it more thought. Then I started reading the poems aloud. That worked best, especially at the end of a long day. I found myself reading two to five poems a day aloud, generally going with first impressions. Of course weeks occasionally passed where I read 0 poems. Even the poets understand that, I think. When I noticed I had about a hundred pages left, I started to read large chunks. To my relief, the poems did not pass by in a blur. Poems are tough, man. I often only got a few images out of them, an interesting phrase, or delightful juxtaposition. That may be one reason I chose an anthology. If I’m going to try to figure out a poem, I want to be confident there’s something there. Maybe I can trust the editors to ensure that, maybe not. Until I’m licensed or at least PhD-ed, which will be never, I definitely can’t just grab a random poet’s volume. The poet might be a con, the poems might be husks, how would I know? Anthologies have their shortcomings though. If you like a musician and think they may be your thing, starting with their greatest hits is mistake, right? And here in this anthology is one poem per poet. Hundreds of, I guess, the best. All coming at you like stars during warp speed, all equally brilliant. In those circumstances, it’s hard for a poem (and poet) to stand out. One week this spring, I read a poem to three groups of high school juniors and seniors. I gave them a choice of four poems from this anthology. Each group chose the same one, so poets, if you want your poem to stand out in an anthology like this, title is key. (The three-time winner was Eating Fried Chicken by Linh Dinh.) As I read poems, I sometimes wanted the coherence that a one-poet volume might have provided. The editors tried to alleviate that, I think, by organizing the poems into nine thematic sections. They write in the Preface that “the title of each section is derived from a poem in that section”. The topic of some sections are obvious from the title, such as In the Grasp of Childhood Fields and This House, My Bones but others are not, such as Bowl of Air and Shivers, which contains poems connected to “spirit and mortality”. In the Preface, the editors write that in their introductions to each section, they hope to “...usher the reader into the work... We also found that embarking upon these short essays allowed us to embrace and to ponder our own identities...” That caught my eye as I re-read the preface today. I’m tempted to try that myself sometime, that is, use the section themes to write about myself. (They could be the first nine blog posts of the blog I haven’t started.) They say there are more poets in the world than readers of poems, but I probably should share at least a few lines. Someone might be interested. While browsing the contents, too many titles attracted my attention. I choose one snippet per section: In the Grasp of Childhood Fields Our cries, she used to say would scratch the moon’s windowpanes and scrape the corners of tombstones which milked the moon... from Untitled by VENUS KHOURY-GHATA Parsed into Colors Velvet the Himalayan poinsettia in bloom, silver the scabbard of thrusting power, the mind is a clear scent, the pen is a new ridge of hills. from It’s a Mineral, the Mind by MOHAN KOIRALA Slips and Atmospherics The trick to deal with a body under siege is to keep things moving... from Strategist by ARUNDHATHI SUBRAMANIAM Earth of Drowned Gods I hate to admit this, brother, but there are times When I’m eating fried chicken When I think about nothing else but eating fried chicken, When I utterly forget about my family, honor and country... from Eating Fried Chicken by LINH DINH Buffaloes Under Dark Water In this world one comes into being at night, We meet one another at night, Fall in love with each other at night- People die at night. from Night by SUERKUL TURGUNBAYEV Apostrophe in the Scripture Go your way in peace, they say, go your way in peace. With your broken neck, hugging severed limbs, go a thousand, ten thousand leagues down the road to the land beyond, without night or day; go your way in peace, they say, go your way in peace. from Ssitkim Kut- A wandering spirit’s song by SHIN KYONG-NIM This House, My Bones How can I grow, spread my roots Far and deep when beneath Me, the soil has been gouged... from I Want My Soil Back by DORJI PENJORE Bowl of Air and Shivers Peace upon the clump of grass sprouting atop the barren mountain. How much time does it need to grow, how many storms and landslides? from Clump of Grass by SAIF AL-RAHBI The Quivering World The Closed Game by NABILA AZZUBAIR And now there are two boxes we will throw to the sea My box, the sea entered because it was open Your box, the beach buried because you never got out If the other pirates leave you for dead on a deserted island, this may be the book to take if they'll only give you one. I love narrative, but poems do offer something else. It took me a year to read this but most of the poems did not get their fair shake. Sorry poets. A lone pirate on Treasure Island could fill many years with this, glancing up occasionally, checking for masts on the horizon. Despite misgivings about poetry anthologies, I’ve added The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: An Anthology to my to-read list and am looking forward to it, but I probably won’t start it until summer 2017 because I still have another unread poetry book from last summer to delve into...

  4. 5 out of 5

    D.A. Gray

    A newspaper article from last week posed the question, "Why have only 10 American writers won the Nobel Prize for Literature?" (And that number can be somewhere between 9 and 12 depending on how we define an author's country.) The question seemed to reflect a narrow view that the great literature all came from Europe, the US and very few other places. And, since the bulk of literature in schools comes from these places it's a surprising question. But, the question should make a reader realize he A newspaper article from last week posed the question, "Why have only 10 American writers won the Nobel Prize for Literature?" (And that number can be somewhere between 9 and 12 depending on how we define an author's country.) The question seemed to reflect a narrow view that the great literature all came from Europe, the US and very few other places. And, since the bulk of literature in schools comes from these places it's a surprising question. But, the question should make a reader realize he or she has been shortchanged. Language for a New Century is a book one could read for years, always picking up something new with each read. While the poetry gives voice to writers as far away as Palestine, Nepal, the Philippines and Ghana, the essays between sections provide great mini-lessons on why this poetry has importance to us. Nathalie Handal, Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar provide lessons that demonstrate their thesis that "the beauty of words, they refuse boundaries. They belong everywhere." Some timely voices and great poets include, Adunis from Syria, Kofi Awoonor who sadly passed away during the terrorist attack in Kenya, Nazim Hikmet, Vikram Seth or Ha Jin.

  5. 4 out of 5

    H. Hall

    I have been dipping into a massive new book of poetry called Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond. It is a major piece of scholarship with poets representing close to 60 countries and more than 45 languages. But it is not a book that you would want to just sit down and read; instead, it is more of a reference book so that if you are curious about whether there is a decent poet from, say, Qatar, you can poke around and find a few. The book does let I have been dipping into a massive new book of poetry called Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond. It is a major piece of scholarship with poets representing close to 60 countries and more than 45 languages. But it is not a book that you would want to just sit down and read; instead, it is more of a reference book so that if you are curious about whether there is a decent poet from, say, Qatar, you can poke around and find a few. The book does let us know the "good news"--that poetry is alive and being written everywhere, that in some way, it remains vital. But beyond that, I cannot say that the book is much more than an exercise in naming...not that naming is not itself a great good thing, naming was, for those of us who read Genesis, the first great injunction to mankind. But naming is about as far as a book this ambitious can go: a name, a country identification, a sample poem. If nothing else, it does give you that name. And so, I read a poem by K. Satchidanandan, an Indian poet who translated his own poem, "Stammer," and I think the poem is excellent. One stanza says that "Stammer is the silence that falls / between the word and its meaning, / just as lameness is the / silence that falls between / the word and the deed." I'm curious and read the rest of the poem and get to the final stanza: "God too must have stammered / when He created Man. / That is why all the words of man / carry different meanings. / That is why everything he utters / from his prayers to his commands / stammers, / like poetry." But if I like the poem, and I do, I have to go somewhere else to read more poetry by K. Satchidanandan, for this anthology is more of a directory of world poets than a collection of poems. It is a massive undertaking by its editors, Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar, but needs to be appreciated for what it is and not for what it is not. Ultimately, it is something of a taxonomy of world poets and not a collection of poems--though it does collect poems. As such, it is a valuable contribution to the world of poetry reference. I cannot, quite honestly, picture even the most avid readers of poetry sitting down with the book and just reading it as they might read, for example, an anthology like In a Fine Frenzy, poems based upon the works of Shakespeare. Language for a New Century is too massive for that,. too intricate and too broad at the same time. It is, finally, an important book for what it does and, yes, what it does is important. So, buy the book as a reference book for your collection and as a guide that can lead you to works by poets you may not have heard of but who, as you taste this Whitman sampler of contemporary world poetry, are worth tasting in more than a simple nibble.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Marne

    Despite the fact that I have one poem included here ;-), and some 24 others by Filipinos and Filipino Americans, this is an exhaustive, as well as an initial, survey of the vast landscape of poetry in English being written around the globe, about life outside the West, interior and exterior, about global events, nations, and individuals. Six years in the making by three able editors, a breakthrough by Norton.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Virtually all of this poetry from around the world is in translation, of course, and it suffers a little because of that, but fundamentally it's a wonderful way to hear a thousand voices from places far away and very different. Some of the poetry is pedestrian, but much is heartbreaking and illuminative.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Relyn

    I have no idea where I heard of this or when I requested it. But, one day I went to pick up library books and found this in my pile. I certainly didn't read all of the many, many poems, but I did poke around a good bit. I took away three treasures to keep for always. Can't beat that.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ambrose Miles

    Great poetry by poets, by in large, I have never encountered before. I've marked out favorites I'll now have to hunt for.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tin

    This is an awesome book about multicultural experiences! A must read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jehan

    Featured a nazi amongst their selection. I'm glad I'm only borrowing it would have been a fucking waste of money otherwise and I would have thrown it in the trash lol. 80% of poems corny at best, cringy most of the time, could be the translation but I doubt so. 2 actual good poems. Yeah

  12. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    I normally don't care to write down which poetry anthologies I comb through but this one was really good and I don't want to forget which one it was if I want to come back to it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    If I liked political poetry this would have gotten more stars, alas. Otherwise, there certainly is good poetry in this anthology, but I found it hard to navigate. The poems are grouped thematically rather than geographically, and to find out where a poet comes from, one needs to go to a particular index, while the poet's bio is in another index. In some cases, it's not clear, despite a bit of well-intentioned cross-indexing, where the poet is from at all, or why s/he is included in the book. The If I liked political poetry this would have gotten more stars, alas. Otherwise, there certainly is good poetry in this anthology, but I found it hard to navigate. The poems are grouped thematically rather than geographically, and to find out where a poet comes from, one needs to go to a particular index, while the poet's bio is in another index. In some cases, it's not clear, despite a bit of well-intentioned cross-indexing, where the poet is from at all, or why s/he is included in the book. The poetry is "from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond," "beyond" being NYC? My problem, then, is not with the poetry, but its organization.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    Truly wonderful, a mix of political, spiritual, and just plain beautiful poetry from all over the Middle East and Asia. I'm pretty sure that I am one of the few who now has a favorite Uzbek poet. I really loved the way they only had one poem per person so you get a good taste of around 400 poets. Loved it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    MEGAN C

    An excellent collection!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anna Burns

    Very interesting.

  17. 4 out of 5

    T-mere

    This is a beautifully loaded anthology!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bob

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hittinger

  20. 5 out of 5

    Charles

  21. 5 out of 5

    Patty Paine

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Proto

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leora Leora

  24. 4 out of 5

    aban

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hari Alluri

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sprinkled Pages

    Read for school. Not rating it because I found it very hard to understand so I'm waiting till we discuss it in school before forming my opinion.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hamish Danks Brown

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jack Kruse

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tim H.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sophia Kmiec

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