These Are Not Oranges, My Love

book review:

These Are Not Oranges, My Love

These Are Not Oranges, My Love is the selected poems of poet and intellectual, Iman Mersal as translated by Khaled Mattawa. Spanning about a decade’s work beginning in the mid­’90s (poems are collected from all but her debut book), These Are Not Oranges follows Mersal from the small town in Egypt where she was born and raised, to a journalism ca­reer in Cairo and eventually to Edmonton, where she is currently a professor at the University of Alberta.

Marshal’s poetry encompasses a rarely acknowledged modern Arab feminism, one that is well-read and quick-witted, with an unrelenting sexuality (not dissimilar to the tone of Maram Al-Massri’s A Red Cherry on a White-Tiled Floor). A contemporary voice that is educated and enlightened, able to find humour in its own tragic tales– whether talking about God, coping with a parent’s illness, having an awkward encounter with a lover or challenging a cultural moment. Mattawa, who has brought this originally Arabic work into English says in his intro­duction, “urban and liberated, the speaker of Mersal’s poems smokes, drinks, falls in love, has affairs, takes anti-depressants, goes to the opera, laughs sincerely and bitterly, and cries and laughs at herself crying.” What else do you want? Parental approval, jabs at Marx and a strong sense of self? That’s here too. (Tara-Michelle Ziniuk)

by Iman Mersal, translated by Khaled Mattawa, $18.50, 90 pgs, The Sheep Meadow Press PO Box 1345, Riverdale, NY, 10471 uSA, sheepmeadowpress.com

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