The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper
Translated by and Nancy Naomi Carlson
Few of us have had the opportunity to visit Djibouti, the small crook of a country strategically located in the Horn of Africa, which makes The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper all the more seductive. In his first collection of poetry, the critically acclaimed writer Abdourahman A. Waberi writes passionately about his country’s landscape, drawing for us pictures of ‘desert furrows of fire’ and a ‘yellow chameleon sky’. Waberi’s poems take us to unexpected spaces—in exile, in the muezzin’s call, and where morning dew is ‘sucked up by the eye of the sun—black often, pink from time to time’.
Translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson, Waberi’s voice is intelligent, at times ironic, and always appealing. His poems strongly condemn the civil wars that have plagued East Africa and advocate tolerance and peace. In this compact volume, such ideas live side by side as a rosary for the treasures of Timbuktu, destroyed by Islamic extremists, and a poem dedicated to Edmond Jabès, the Jewish writer and poet born in Cairo.
‘Novelist Waberi, the best-known contemporary writer from the East African nation of Djibouti, evokes “an entire life in the echo of my tongue” in his first collection of poems. His terse sequences incorporate the region’s recent troubles with civil wars and Islamic extremists along with ancient fable and history. The Koranic story of Bilal recurs as a myth of national origin; the poet asks us to “let nomadic words live,” with “oral ancestors’ shadow/ resisting harsh winters.” Sometimes Waberi returns to the landscape: “my tree the aloe/ my flower the crack in the cactus / my river none in my land.” But his verse, in its trim stanzas and its thin lists, insists on its modernity too.’ —Publishers Weekly
‘Movement is essential to this collection of poetry as Waberi illustrates the landscape and life of Djibouti in his concise yet dense poems.’ —World Literature Today
‘Waberi writes the sort of spare, clear poetry one would expect of a poet whose chief subject matter is the desert. Born in Djibouti, Africa, Waberi selects his words with great care, which results in a book of extremely short, yet powerfully suggestive, pieces.’ —Independent
Publication Year: May 2015
Size: 5" x 8.5"
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