Ruba’iyat for the Time of Apricots

by Basma Kavanagh

Frontenac House

2018

Poetry: Gender Studies

CDN $: 19.95

9781927823811

This book length poem comprises three major interwoven threads: Ahli, an auto/biographical thread about my Lebanese heritage; Astura, a grim tale linking climate change and the oppression of women, and Ana, a reflection on identity, language, and writing. To tell a story of my mother, her sisters, and their mother; a story of traditions, gesture, ritual, transformation, and self, is to persist against the erasure of the nuanced and tenacious feminine histories that co-exist with our troubled present and its bland stereotypes.

Like a seed, a family story houses its ancestors, and the diversity—genetic and experiential—that equips us to thrive in a multitude of possible futures. Written in quatrains, called ruba’iyat in Arabic, from the word for “four”, each stanza of this poem is self-contained, yet converses with adjacent stanzas to build a narrative. The repetition of phrases across stanzas, and the studding of the text with Arabic words, combine to create a layered, incantatory quality evoking the complexity of Arabic oral poetry.

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