Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Two new books for Dubai poetry fans

A busy season for the local poetry scene gave us book launches by two prolific Dubai-based poets: Frank Dullaghan's third title, The Same Roads Back, and Zeina Hashem Beck's award-winning debut title, To Live in Autumn. Following grand individual launch events, the poets held a joint reading session at DIFC's Bookshop readers' cafe.

After reading out a few of the most characteristic and/or popular poems from their portfolios, Frank and Zeina took questions from and discussed their art with attendees. Topics on the table included the characteristics of "good poetry", free verse vs. metre and rhyme, Zeina's peculiar but apparently effective multilingual composition technique, and some anecdotes and advice on getting published and getting feedback.

Zeina's poems lend themselves well to performance, specifically the creative punctuation and the repetition of words or lines for effect. It makes pleasant reading too, though. Generally more urban in context, the poems refer to colorful personalities, and paint you-had-to-be-there experiences, many of which seem tinged with nostalgia.

Frank's use of metaphorical flourish, combined with everyday language and attention to detail, paints lucid imagery of human and natural scenery, using such phrasing as "quality of light" and "green state of grace". One is easily transported one into the moment, into the perspective of observer or participant. The seemingly mundane is rendered intimate and significant.

The differences between the lived stories of a grey-bearded Irishman and a Lebanese woman who was a college student not long ago are evident in their respective books. There's also some overarching commonality in the use of free verse and vivid descriptions of personal observations. Both books will therefore appeal to fans of this style, while offering differences in content and delivery sufficient to warrant reading both.

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