I’m here with another poetry review for you guys!
I completed reading Don’t Forget the Couscous by Amir Darwish in two sittings. Last night I decided to read a poem or two before sleeping – I ended up reading half the book. The second half I finished in my free time at University.
Amir Darwish is a British Syrian of Kurdish origin. His book Don’t Forget the Couscous was published last October. I was lucky enough to get a digital copy of the book from Inpress Books.
I knew I wanted to read it when I read its description and saw that it was about the Arab Spring, the bloodshed as a result of the Syrian civil war and countering Islamophobia and the image of the Muslim as a terrorist. Having now read the collection I’d say my only complain is I wanted more poems like ‘Sorry’ and ‘I am’ which so intensely and directly opposed the idea that Muslims are violent. In fact, although there were many poems which documented the repercussions of said war, I really wish there were a few more. I felt the subject wasn’t as explored as it was described to be. But, that’s just my way of saying I need more poems by Darwish!
Darwish begins his collection with a poem, ‘Sorry’, that is an apology from Muslims to the rest of the world for all the wrong they have done. You know, things like coffee, chemistry, kebabs and The Arabian Nights. I don’t think I’ve read a better poem than this one on the issue. It’s packed with beautiful observations and truly reflects the legacy of Muslims and without any doubt resonates the value and sentiments the poet holds for the legacy and his roots. The poem ends with beautiful lines from Rumi that serve to counter Islamophobia with endearment and satirical positivity, as opposed to what some people do which is to shout and scream and get angry. Darwish showed me that it’s not useful being venomous with words or even to backfire when you can do it by talking about the good things and by instead exchanging words of peace.
One of the best things about the collection was the juxtaposition of beautiful imagery with violent ones. In fact, most times I couldn’t even see it coming and that sudden shift in mood was something I started to look forward to. There are many other layers, like the essence of the East and Arabia in the middle of the West. I also enjoyed the way nature, flowers, gazelles and sometimes even certain body parts were described and presented in the poems.
But more than this, Don’t Forget the Couscous is an ode to love, lovers and the beauty of it all. It’s filled with heartwarming descriptions and metaphors that relate to love and love’s many manifestations. I think it’s quite an achievement for a single poetry collection to have such a vast capacity to make you feel about so many different things in life. This leads me to believe that the genius of it all is Darwish’s choice to put together poetry that speaks against Islamophobia along with beautiful romantic poetry that is subtle and direct all at once. His poetry shows Arabian heritage with its beautiful architecture, fruits and rugs, and the human ‘heritage’ which is to feel, love and want beautiful thoughts for ourselves. He shows us cities and takes us right in the middle of them so we can hear, see and observe the people and the sights who make the Amsterdam, Morocco, Dubai, Rio and Syria. He shares heartful love letters and talks about walking the moon home, about children running to feasts at Eid and people walking to prayer. And a few times he addresses the reader directly and pulls us into his poem. I’m actually quite unsure about how to explain all the beautiful verses in this book.You have to experience it for yourself!
I also have no complains about the writing style. I love prose poetry especially when it’s smooth and retains that special poetic essence that keeps you reading it like its a song. This poetry collection is like a basket of images that you’ll never forget or ever want to get rid of. The poems are fairly easy to read, though sometimes you do have to think about the metaphors to truly appreciate it. Even if you don’t decipher everything you’re likely to still enjoy it!
Another thing I liked about the writing was the use of certain Arabic words and terms. Of course, the Arabic words were also like dots that connected the true essence of the poem which is Arabia. I understood them but someone who isn’t aware of them shouldn’t worry because they’re all explained at the back,. In fact, I actually appreciated the index because it also contained details about certain places that were mentioned.
I definitely recommend Don’t Forget the Couscous to everyone. I felt it was so beautiful read and really such a poetic treat. I honestly fell in love with the way Amir Darwish describes emotions and scenes. He comfortably brings Arabia in the middle of the West, and sometimes the West in the middle of Arabia.
Here are some of my favourite verses – there are SO many I wanted to write:
“My eyes do not watch you anymore: they touch you.”
“To the beautiful image of the hate of the world as a pinch of salt on a palm,
That you can blow clean.”
“Love has one flavour
And no country.
Its inhabitants are everything that moves
Including this pen as it writes.” – This one totally sums up what I said earlier about Darwish using love to write about difficult topics.
**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Inpress Books**