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Review: State of Emergency, by Soleïman Adel Guémar

Rowan B. Fortune-Wood, Envoi 149, February 2008

from The Personal to the Political

In Algeria Soleïman Adel Guémar's investigative journalism sparked malicious threats, the ransacking of his house and even a violent assault. Now living in Wales, an asylum for himself and his family, he continues to speak out against oppression with shocking, demanding, verse... Guémar is not a poet to indulge in Aristotelian catharsis, to lull readers into a sense of compliancy and complacency. Rather Guémar's aesthetic is angry, concrete, accessible and challenging: sadness is interspaced with harsh satire, forming pieces that are clear, political, accusatory and revealing and, at the same time, undeniably lyrical, personal and poetic...

Guémar's poetry is oral; his is not the skilled rhetorician or propagandist, but the vernacular, colloquial and expressive voice of a dissenter refusing to silently ignore the Algerian realities of torture, repression and tyranny: a plemic against silence and willing indifference... here is a poet concerned with people's realities. The realities Guémar explores are political and therefore his poetry is political, but it is also personal. This work examines the tragedy of political disaster from the perspective of real voices and, therefore, on a more individual level than abstract political prose is able to...this book is a fitting celebration...