Cover image for The twenty-ninth year : poems
Title:
The twenty-ninth year : poems
ISBN:
9781328511942
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.
Physical Description:
ix, 83 pages ; 23 cm
Summary:
For Hala Alyan, twenty-nine is a year of transformation and upheaval, a year in which the past-- memories of family members, old friends and past lovers, the heat of another land, another language, a different faith-- winds itself around the present. Hala's ever-shifting, subversive verse sifts together and through different forms of forced displacement and the tolls they take on mind and body. Poems leap from war-torn cities in the Middle East, to an Oklahoma Olive Garden, a Brooklyn brownstone; from alcoholism to recovery; from a single woman to a wife. This collection summons breathtaking chaos, one that seeps into the bones of these odes, the shape of these elegies. A vivid catalog of heartache, loneliness, love and joy, The Twenty-Ninth Year is an education in looking for home and self in the space between disparate identities.
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Book 811.6 Alyan
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Book 811.6 Alyan
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Book 811.6 Alyan
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Summary

Summary

"This is the stuff of life, the very essence of the poetic." -LitHub

For Hala Alyan, twenty-nine is a year of transformation and upheaval, a year in which the past--memories of family members, old friends and past lovers, the heat of another land, another language, a different faith--winds itself around the present. Hala's ever-shifting, subversive verse sifts together and through different forms of forced displacement and the tolls they take on mind and body. Poems leap from war-torn cities in the Middle East, to an Oklahoma Olive Garden, a Brooklyn brownstone; from alcoholism to recovery; from a single woman to a wife. This collection summons breathtaking chaos, one that seeps into the bones of these odes, the shape of these elegies.

A vivid catalog of heartache, loneliness, love and joy, The Twenty-Ninth Year is an education in looking for home and self in the space between disparate identities.


Author Notes

HALA ALYAN is an award-winning Palestinian American poet and clinical psychologist. She has published four collections of poetry and a novel, Salt Houses, praised by the Los Angeles Review as "a master of . . . the depths and complexities of the Palestinian displacement."


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The past never truly dies in this searing fourth collection from Alyan (Salt Houses), it merely resurfaces in the form of battle scars and familial wounds. The Palestinian-American poet, novelist, and clinical psychologist weaves an ever-shifting narrative that chronicles the personal history that shapes and informs her present. These kaleidoscopic flashes of former lives share the feeling and act of displacement, the way in which the body can store the mental, emotional and psychological traumas long after the inciting events have transpired. "We inherit everything. Especially questions," Alyan writes in "The Honest Wife." Throughout her work the theme of displacement elicits more than emotion; it's a recurring memory. In "Aleppo," Alyan describes "how a lone bomb can erase a lineage: the nicknames for your mother, the ghost stories, the only song that put your child to sleep." People do not merely inherit memories, they also inherit the accompanying pain; the book's prevalence of couplets may attest to this kind of pairing. In "Armadillo," where Alyan recounts family memories, she asks and answers, "What do we do with heartache? Tow it." The inheritance of displacement is pervasive, as Alyan describes, and her lines are prone to linger in the minds of readers just like the ghosts that haunt the work itself. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Inspired by how, every 29 years, Saturn returns to the same spot in the night sky it occupied at the time of one's birth, Alyan packs this truly stellar collection of poetry with a preponderance of heavy topics: anorexia, alcoholism, sobriety, sex, Islam, wedlock, recovery, and more. Composed primarily of blocks of prose and long, precise couplets, the poems depict a speaker who recites suras from the Qur'an but who doesn't fast or kneel, who drinks and snorts and smokes but who also abstains to the point of starvation. These candid idiosyncrasies also risk isolation and loneliness: I'm divisible only by myself. Quintessentially American in its traversing of the heartland, from Texas and Oklahoma to California and New York, Alyan's poems also layer in Beirut, Aleppo, and the Greek islands. If the collection wants for anything, it's that each poem offers only a glimpse or a moment, whereas the subject matter could sustain several more pages of vicious, gripping verse. Luckily, readers can dive into the rest of Alyan's burgeoning oeuvre: another three books of poetry and a critically acclaimed novel, Salt Houses (2017).--Diego Báez Copyright 2019 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Palestinian American poet Alyan's first poetry collection (following her multi-award-winning debut novel, Salt House) investigates the titular milestone year in everyone's life, one that was particularly significant to her as she recalls friends and family, forced displacement, and adapting to a new land and language. The poems range widely in style from the almost conversational to more impervious, stylized cryptograms. Alyan moves with grace and courage in her poems, especially in her bare descriptions of a battle with anorexia, the relationship between father and daughter, and the stark realizations she depicts of a young girl tugged between her family's past and a life of American fast food restaurants where she's told how she doesn't fit in. "I am nothing but/ a body" she writes in "Gospel: Beruit" before the poem breaks off with absence, an "only if" without an ending. That lack of resolution defines this entire collection. VERDICT This is coming-of-age poetry from a voice that resists categorization. It will appeal to a wide range of readers.-Emily Bowles, Univ. of ­Wisconsin, ­Madison © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Truth I'm allergic to hair dye and silver. Of the worlds, I love the Aztecs' most of all, the way they lit fires in the gouged chests of men to keep the world spinning. I've seen women eat cotton balls so they wouldn't eat bread. I will never be as beautiful as the night I danced in a garage, anorexic, decked in black boots, black sweater, black jeans, hip-hop music and a girl I didn't know pulling my hips to hers. Hunger is hunger. I got drunk one night and argued with the Pacific. I was twenty. I broke into the bodies of men like a cartoon burglar. I wasn't twenty. In the winter of those years I kept Christmas lights strung around my bed and argued with the Italian landlady who lived downstairs about turning the heat off, and every night I wanted to drink but didn't.   Transcend You tell me we must forgive the heat. Everyone is talking about the latest shooting.   The city shimmies its indigo rooftops. A soldier couldn't forgive his daddy. A sheriff wanted to chalk the pavement.   In Aleppo a child white as a birthday cake, limp in her father's fists. 600,000 dead. You must've added a zero by accident.                     I tug your pants to your ankles and make you speak God.   There are a hundred videos of the same moment shot from a hundred different angles. I watch every single one.                     I let her pull the white out of you.   The father looking the camera directly in the eye. Look, her name was. Who will catch him when his knees buckle. Look, the mortar grows on our houses like moss.   The exile knows his bones are 206 instruments. There is a song in each one.   I filmed the sky to show you the pale face that lives within it. See that eye? Ask it to love you.   The Female of the Species They leave the country with gasping babies and suitcases full of spices and cassettes. In airports,   they line themselves up like wine bottles. The new city twinkles beneath an onion moon.   Birds mistake the pebbles of glass on the black asphalt for bread crumbs. = If I drink, I tell stories about the women I know. They break dinner plates. They marry impulsively.   When I was a child I watched my aunt throw a halo of spaghetti at my mother. Now I'm older than they were. = In an old-new year, my cousin shouts ana bint Beirut at the sleeping houses. She clatters up the stairs.   I never remember to tell her anything. Not the dream where I can't yell loud enough for her to stop running.   And the train comes. And the amar layers the stones like lichen. How the best night of my life was the one   she danced with me in Paris, sharing a hostel bed, and how sometimes you need one knife to carve another. = It's raining in two cities at once. The Vendôme plaza fills with water and the dream, the fountain, the moon   explodes open, so that Layal, Beirut's last daughter, can walk through the exit wound.     Dirty Girl See, I knew I'd make my mama cry if I stole the earring, and so into my pocket it went. I asked America to give me = the barbecue. A slow dance with a cowboy. Pop goes the grenade. Pop goes the Brooklyn jukebox. Give me male hands, oleander white, hard, earnest, your husband in the back seat of his own car, my jeans shoved down, the toxic plant you named your child after, a freeway by the amusement park that jilted girls speed across, windows rolled down, screaming bad songs at the top of their lungs. = After the new world. Before the New one. The Peruvian numerologist told me I'd be trailed by sevens until the day I died.   Everything worth nicking needs an explanation: I slept with one man because the moon, I slept with the other because who cares, we're expats, the black rhinos are dying, the subway pastors can't make me tell the truth. Tonight                                     Z isn't eating, and five states away                                                                         I'm pouring a whiskey = I won't drink. = I count the green lights. Those blue-eyed flowers your father brought when I couldn't leave my bedroom. The rooftop, the weather, the subway empties its fist of me, the red salt of my fear. A chalky seven stamped on the pale face of the sleeping pill.                                                       What I mean to say is = I'm divisible only by myself.         Excerpted from The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


Table of Contents

Truthp. 1
Transcendp. 4
The Female of the Speciesp. 5
Dirty Girlp. 7
Armadillop. 8
Gospel: Texasp. 11
Halfway to Julyp. 13
The Socratic Methodp. 14
Oklahomap. 15
1999p. 16
Gospel: Rumip. 17
New Yearp. 20
The Worst Ghostsp. 21
Telling the Story Rightp. 23
Call Me to Prayerp. 25
Gospel: Beirutp. 26
Nineteen in Retrogradep. 27
Pray Like You Mean Itp. 29
Not a Mosquep. 30
You're Not a Girl in a Moviep. 31
Step One: Admit Powerlessnessp. 32
Tattlerp. 33
Common Ancestorsp. 35
Chaos Theoryp. 36
Honeymoonp. 40
When I Bit into the Plum the Ants Flooded Outp. 41
Instructions for a Wifep. 42
Gospel: Newlywedsp. 43
Gospel: Insomniap. 45
The Temperance (XIV) Cardp. 46
Even When I Listen, I'm Lyingp. 47
Step Eight: Make Amendsp. 48
A Love Letter to My Panic // A Love Letter to My Husbandp. 50
I'm Not Speaking Firstp. 51
Step Four: Moral Inventoryp. 52
Either I'm Coming Back or I'm Notp. 53
Unmarriedp. 54
The Honest Wifep. 56
Turnpike // Ghostp. 57
Self-Portrait with No More Winep. 58
Step Two: Higher Powerp. 59
Gospel: Diasporap. 62
Wife in Reversep. 63
Heirloomp. 65
I Can't Tell Which Haircut in the Photograph Is Mep. 66
Can I Apologize Now?p. 68
Ordinary Scripturep. 69
Dear Layal,p. 70
On the Death of WWE Professional Wrestler Chynap. 71
Cliffhangerp. 73
Aleppop. 74
Upstate Ip. 77
Upstate IIp. 78
Thirtyp. 81
Acknowledgmentsp. 82