Shortlisted for The Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry
Recipient of the Menada Award
In The Lives of Rain, Nathalie Handal has brought forth a work of radical displacement and uncertainty, moving continent to continent, giving voice to Palestinians of the diaspora in the utterance of one fiercely awake and compassionate, who, against warfare, occupation and brutality offers her native language, olives, wind, a herd of sheep or a burning mountain, radio music, a butterfly’s gaze. It is a poetry of never arriving, of villages erased from the maps, of tattoed waistlines and kalishnikovs, a goat and a corpse cut open side by side, where every house is a prison. In a spare, chiseled language without ornament, she writes an exilic lyric, fusing Arabic, English, Spanish and French into a polyglot testament of horror and survival. Habibti, que tal? she asks of those who wander country to country, while those left behind in Jenin, Gaza City, and Bethlehem inhabit a continued past of blood/ of jailed cities. Her subject is memory and forgetting, the precariousness of identity and the fragility of human community; it is the experience of suffering without knowledge of its end. Handal is a poet of deftly considered paradoxes and reversals, sensory evocations and mysteries left beautifully unresolved. Hers is a language seared by history and marked by the impress of extremity; so it is suffused with a rare species of wisdom.
– Carolyn Forché
Handal is an important and eloquent voice whose poetic vision is as rare as it is necessary.
– Daniel Olivas
The Lives of Rain is a book of exile and wandering, geographically and emotionally. In it are wars, loves, scars, ancestors. In it are olive trees, lemon trees, weddings, music, fear. In it are English, French, Arabic, Spanish, "the breath of cities," the blue hour of a woman's body. Nathalie Handal is a poet for our time of crisis and need, for our awakening sense of the battles of eros and thanatos in our world.
– Alicia Ostriker
Some poets have a fire in the belly, an urgent need to tell the truth for the sake of those who do not know, and those who do. Nathalie Handal is one such poet. Yet her poems transcend the fire of their birth: there is also a cool intelligence here, the words of a witness who will tell the story and get it right. These brave, sensual and striking poems humanize the Palestinian people at a time in history when they are too often dehumanized. Gracias, Nathalie.
– Martin Espada
Nathalie Handal's poetry is a global poetry of witness and wisdom. The weightiness of her subjects is delightfully at odds with the buoyancy of her cadence. In The Lives of Rain, Handal's crisp multi-lingual diction renders passion, intelligence, and despair, deftly chronicling the human condition in its vivid particulars.
– Denise Duhamel
In The Lives of Rain we catch the accent and the stress of displacement, of being in the wrong place, ‘shadows behind shadows’ - Nathalie Handal's exilic tone stays and roots itself.
– Tom Paulin
Great writing, hard, moving, tough, real.
– Bob Holman
The Lives of Rain reminds me of an essay by Edward Said [Reflections on Exile]. The melody is mine, belongs to the reader, as I am also this hatless man: his maps his books, his memories his exile his half-forgotten name on a bench by the river...Une vraie poétique du déplacement, sensuelle, érotique et (pourquoi pas) politique.
– Milton Hatoum