in his second book of poems, Ahmad Almallah seeks a language that captures the afterlives of the mother tongue. This collection blurs the borders between languages, between the living and the dead, between presence and absence.
The poems of Border Wisdom break and mourn physical borders at the same time. Here the exilic idea of a return to a home is expressed in the daily return to the blank page in search of a poem. In these returns the body brushes against the past and, as Hart Crane puts it, taps into “that memory all things nurse.”
In Border Wisdom, Ahmad Almallah takes the notable step of writing in a mix of Arabic and English scripts, a bilingual poetics that has surfaced intermittently among the finest of our experimental writers. For this and for his exemplary writings in standalone English, I would extend to him the well-known welcome that Emerson directed to Whitman nearly two centuries ago: I greet you at the beginning of a great career. —Jerome Rothenberg