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Milkweed

You Can Be the Last Leaf

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You Can Be the Last Leaf

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You Can Be the Last Leaf: Selected Poems

By Maya Abu Al-Hayyat

Translated from the Arabic and introduced by Fady Joudah,

You Can Be the Last Leaf draws on two decades of work to present the transcendent and timely US debut of Palestinian poet Maya Abu Al-Hayyat.

Art. Garlic. Taxis. Sleepy soldiers at checkpoints. The smell of trash on a winter street, before “our wild rosebush, neglected / by the gate, / blooms.” Lovers who don’t return, the possibility that you yourself might not return. Making beds. Cleaning up vomit. Reading recipes.

In You Can Be the Last Leaf, these are the ordinary and profound—sometimes tragic, sometimes dreamy, sometimes almost frivolous—moments of life under Israeli occupation. Here, private and public domains are inseparable. Desire, loss, and violence permeate the walls of the home, the borders of the mind. And yet that mind is full of its own fierce and funny voice, its own preoccupations and strangenesses.

“It matters to me,” writes Abu Al-Hayyat, “what you’re thinking now / as you coerce your kids to sleep / in the middle of shelling”: whether it’s coming up with “plans / to solve the world’s problems,” plans that “eliminate longing from stories, remove exhaustion from groans,” or dreaming “of a war / that’s got no war in it,” or proclaiming that “I don’t believe in survival.”

In You Can Be the Last Leaf, Abu Al-Hayyat has created a richly textured portrait of Palestinian interiority—at once wry and romantic, worried and tenacious, and always singing itself.

Reviews

“The Palestinian poet’s U.S. debut gathers two decades of her intimate testimony about private life in a public war zone, where ‘those who win by killing fewer children / are losers.’”
—New York Times

“Al-Hayyat's latest devastating and courageous collection captures the precarious everyday lives of Palestinians with enormous empathy and glistening clarity . . . The vivid translations by Fady Joudah will jostle readers into discomfort and pin Al-Hayyat's stunning voice into their ears.”
—Booklist

“There is so much grief and laughter in this collection, loss and love, as we watch the poet over time in an unending occupation. This unceasing violence seeps into her interior world too, her home and mind. But she still fiercely demands space for desire, laughter, and hope.”
—Pierce Alquist, Book Riot

“Abu Al-Hayyat explores the broader political and geographic aspects of Palestinian life under colonial rule while at the same time interweaving the quotidian aspects of life and loss in such settings. Within these frictions of exterior trauma and private contemplations, large constraints and small freedoms, these poems soar.”
—Chicago Review of Books

"You Can Be the Last Leaf is a collection of selected poems from Abu Al-Hayyat’s four poetry collections . . . it gives the reader a window into the impressive journey that the poet has charted from her first poetry collection . . . This translation is necessary because Abu Al-Hayyat is fierce, impressive, and unapologetically herself. Her work takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions anchored in truth. In her poems, the reader experiences life as it is, with its round and broken wholeness. Abu Al-Hayyat writes in a clear and concise fashion about loss, grief, fear, hope, and love echoing her experiences as well as what she witnesses in Palestine."
—Tel Aviv Review of Books

Fady Joudah is the translator of You Can Be the Last Leaf. He is also the author of five collections of poems, including, most recently, Tethered to Stars and Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance. He has translated from the Arabic collections by Mahmoud Darwish, Ghassan Zaqtan, and Amjad Nasser, and is the coeditor and cofounder of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. He lives in Houston, with his wife and kids, where he practices internal medicine.

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Milkweed Editions (2022)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 88 pages
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1571315403

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