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Review: The Parley Tree, ed. Patrick Williamson

Cultural Worth, David Hart, Stride Magazine, 2012

Does anyone know the extent to which culture, place, the moment, the quirks of personhood are crucial in the making of poems? Or the question might be, what is to be understood from books location-based? The Parley Tree has both location and diversity and I despair of trying to convey what's here from Algeria, Cameroon, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia.

Choosing one statement from the introduction:

Tradition, myth, and visceral attachment to ancestral land are major strands in poetry from the continent. .... Metaphysical themes underpin modern post-colonial poetry in both Arabic and, probably to a greater extent, in French, acting as a way of federating people by bringing to the fore all the ancient cultural values ... as if to say, we have a cultural worth strong enough to resist any onslaught.

Quoting from one poem, or from however many, would not begin to show what the book holds, but anyway this is by one of the three women, Venus Khoury-Gata (Lebanon), from a poem called The Shades,

The clamour of the town reaches us all broken up
piecing it together into a straight line requires
the skill of a surveyor

voices overlapping the stones
echo overlapping voices
lying stretched out until the upturned houses
sheet shroud whatever

and to come a little closer to hearing a voice, the 4th and 5th of these lines in French,

les voix chevauchant les pierres
l'écho chevauchant les voix