NYRB Poets: Najwan Darwish presents "Exhausted on the Cross," with translator Kareem James Abu-Zeid & Jeffrey Yang

February 25, 2021, 7:30 PM

Najwan Darwish joins us to present his newest poetry collection, Exhausted on the Cross, with the book's translator, Kareem James Abu-Zeid, and Jeffrey Yang. This program is part of our ongoing series with NYRB and will take place on Zoom. Register here: 

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“We drag histories behind us,” the Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish writes in Exhausted on the Cross, “here / where there’s neither land / nor sky.” In pared-down lines, brilliantly translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Darwish records what Raúl Zurita describes as “something immemorial, almost unspeakable”—a poetry driven by a “moral imperative” to be a “colossal record of violence and, at the same time, the no less colossal record of compassion.” Darwish’s poems cross histories, cultures, and geographies, taking us from the grime of modern-day Shatila and the opulence of medieval Baghdad to the gardens of Samarkand and the open-air prison of present-day Gaza. We join the Persian poet Hafez in the conquered city of Shiraz and converse with the Prophet Mohammad in Medina. Poem after poem evokes the humor in the face of despair, the hope in the face of nightmare.

A voice simultaneously so passionate and so matter-of-fact that it stops the breath.

Such poetry does not play games, linguistic, critical, theoretical, does not address itself to the academies, but goes straight to the heart, straight to the point. And, on every page, in every line, the Lyric voice, the moving, self-questioning power, predominates.
—Nathaniel Tarn

Najwan Darwish is one of the foremost Arabic-language poets of his generation, born in Jerusalem in 1978, thirty years after his family was exiled. Since the publication of his first collection in 2000, his poetry has been acclaimed across the Arab world and has been translated into fifteen languages. 

Kareem James Abu-Zeid is a translator, editor, writer, teacher, and scholar who works across multiple languages who has received numerous awards, fellowships, and honors including PEN Center USA's 2017 Translation Prize and a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts translation grant. He lives between southern India and Santa Fe, NM. 

Jeffrey Yang is the author of Hey, Marfa (Graywolf Press, 2018), Vanishing-Line (Graywolf Press, 2011), and An Aquarium (Graywolf Press, 2008). He works as an editor at New Directions and New York Review Books and lives in Beacon, NY.