These astute, generous poems give us contemporary Beirut in all its ravaged and incongruent beauty.
This arresting first collection is, in part, a delicately balanced look at Beirut from the perspective of a Westerner who lives and works in that remarkable city. Whether writing about the Middle East or about domestic life, Di Nardo refuses to romanticize; he doesn’t moralize about the causes of perennial conflicts. He is that rare thing: a clear-eyed witness.
Here and there Starbucks coffee cups collide
with service taxis and re-assign the chaos, litter
the brittle landscape of the coast, while the world
command picks through the sands of lawlessness
for just a grain of what remains of itself,
the little air of familiarity defunct, despised and fed
to those on foot like scraps to gutter cats in the shade
of too many parked cars that took the place
of date palms standing on the sidewalks.
Yet no one would ever leave their shift at the wheel,
or turn home in the grim belief life’s purpose is that unreal.
(from “Oh the streets of West Beirut”)
“Time and space are lenses Di Nardo overlays to bring Beirut into historic and personal focus… Evidence of violence abounds here, as does love, and Di Nardo epitomizes, like Cavafy, the empathy required to be its perfect correspondent.” –John Barton
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