Young Lebanese poet Abdul-Baki offers a soulful and optimistic, if somewhat unpolished, debut anthology investigating the meanings of powerful words and themes.
This book of free verse poems, divided into three parts, is annotated by lyrical prose sections. These prose passages, labeled “Just a little something” or “The final word,” can sometimes be disruptive and confusing, but they allow the author space to emphasize the book’s themes and weave a unifying narrative. The collection is, by turns, questioning, confessional, motivational and reverent. In the preface, the author explains that his impetus to write these poems, live well and dream big comes “from the sky”—in both a heavenly and earthly sense. The first section, “A heavenly world,” is the longest and most erratic of the three, comprised of poems on subjects as diverse as God, curiosity, a deadly tsunami, racism, friends and hope. “God” is a simple, declaratory exaltation, while “Tsunami,” at seven stanzas ranging from five to 12 lines each, is exceeded in length only by “Space,” a poem the author adds at the end as a teaser for his second collection. “Tsunami,” a harsh look at human suffering, contrasts the struggles of those living through a tragedy with the efforts of observers coping with a crisis. It includes the refrain “Deaths, deaths, some homeless / Some people are left hopeless” and specifically implicates Americans in the world’s well-intentioned but deficient response to the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. “Curiosity,” the first poem the author ever penned, was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and celebrates the drive to “discover something new”—a theme that permeates the collection along with the themes of “responsibility” and “harmony.” In the second and third parts, “Better beginnings” and “A new page,” Abdul-Baki continues to explore religious themes and virtues, proclaims his love for writing, and reminds readers that “you’re the cause of your life’s rewards and consequences.” The author has a developing ear for rhyme and meter and an unguarded approach to composition. Unfortunately, occasional semantic errors, ambiguous phrasing and awkward structure sometimes hamper his verses’ fluidity, as does the occasional insertion of bold, all-capitals text.
A rookie poetry effort that shows a passion that could translate into impressive work in the future.