Al-Yagout takes readers on a spiritual journey that will challenge and inspire.
This mystical poetry aims not merely to entertain or educate, but to enlighten. Al-Yagout (This is an imprint, 2014), in her most recent volume, writes often exquisite stanzas crafted to nudge readers awake. The first section is simply called “Awakening”; the second, “Dark Night of the Soul,” borrows its title from the 16th-century mystic John of the Cross; the last is fittingly titled “The Divine.” A poem from this final section offers perhaps the clearest understanding of Al-Yagout’s goal: “that something behind everything where / nothing makes sense and anything goes; / no mother nature nor angelic intercessors, / just You, transcending it all.” This You, this “something behind everything,” is unmediated experience, true reality, which the “Awake” poet distinguishes from the “Game of Pretending” mentioned in the collection’s title. “Pretending,” on the other hand, involves the shallow pleasures of the world, the “chauffeur-driven Bentleys / basking in their competitive streaks like circus / freaks strolling in overpriced farmers’ markets / dressed to the city-nines breaking hearts and / bank accounts taking pride in the materialistic / misogynistic.” Against all this superfluous fakery—which Al-Yagout effectively evokes with such breathless lather—the poet tells her reader: “You choose Love.” Throughout her volume, Al-Yagout animates this battle between the real and the shallow with energy and aplomb. She only occasionally falters, and she is most likely to do so when her abstract language lists into obscurity, as in “Forcefully without force”: “The warrior within you is not you / It is just the part of you / that will bring the rest of / you out of you.” But that near-nonsense is just one of a few small slips in an otherwise powerful collection.
Moving, illuminating verse.