Fady Joudah Brings Subversive Poems to LC

A photo of Joudah reading a poem in the Armstrong Lounge of the Frank Manor House. Photo by Ary Hashim.

Accomplished poet Fady Joudah held a reading in the Frank Manor House on April 1. At the reading, he recited poems from his most recent book, “Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance: Poems.”

Joudah won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 2007 and has since won multiple other awards for his writing, including a PEN Award, a Banpal/TLS Prize, the Griffin Poetry Prize and a Guggenheim fellowship. Along with being a decorated poet, he works as a physician and a translator.

Joudah’s poetic style is  revolutionary in the face of poetic traditions. In fact, his work can lead one to question the purpose of poetry altogether. When reading his poetry, one must dismiss the popular notion that cohesiveness and clear meaning are the key ingredients to good poetry. Instead, the reader is forced to embrace the lyricality of his style in order to appreciate his work for what it is. The meanings of each line are meant to be lingered upon, constantly questioned and uncertain.

At the reading, Joudah spoke to how he aims to challenge the conceptions of what poetry and books should be.

“We feel compelled to submit to an idea of what a book is,” Joudah said. “It worries me in how much unity we want.”

Indeed, Joudah’s style is nonlinear and sporadic, rebelling against preconceived notions that writing should be linear. Thus, his poetry is difficult for many readers to interpret.

Joudah’s career as a doctor greatly influences his poetry, as many of his poems contain niche medical jargon. Therefore, unless a reader is familiar with this terminology, a dictionary is a necessary tool to use while reading his book. Many of Joudah’s poems are about his experiences in the medical field. While the creative realm of writing poetry is certainly worlds apart from practicing medicine, Joudah manages to blend these two fields together in a fascinating manner.

Another frequent topic in Joudah’s poetry is his Palestinian heritage. Many of his poems tell stories of both his personal experience with dual nationalities and experiences of other Palestinian immigrants.

For example, at the reading he elaborated on his intent in writing the poem “Alignment,” which begins with the line, “For decades you thought you were a Scorpio until your sister informed you, according to one birth certificate, you were a Sagittarius.” He explained that many immigrants don’t know the exact day of their birth, and when arriving to another country they often provide the wrong date because they have no formal records.

The personal meanings that lie within Joudah’s poetry combined with his mesmerizing lyricality render his poems intensely vulnerable. His poetry is guaranteed to simultaneously confound and deeply touch any reader.

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