Ahmad Almallah

The gaps I mean (PoemTalk #146)

Robert Frost, 'Mending Wall'

From left: Anna Strong Safford, Ahmad Almallah, Stephen Metcalf

Stephen Metcalf, Anna Strong Safford, and Ahmad Almallah joined Al Filreis to talk about one of the most well known poems in English of the twentieth century — Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” What hasn't already been said about this poem? Well, to our ears at least, this conversation goes in several unusual and, we think, fascinating new directions. What exactly is the nature of the poem’s (or anyway the speaker’s) cultural conservatism? Can the wall really be read geopolitically? Is it more about what is being walled out than walled in? Do the stalwart iambs themselves form a wall that is hard for readers to get across? Are the gaps in the wall wide enough for new readers to get through?

Review of Ahmad Almallah's 'Bitter English'

Review of Ahmad Almallah, Bitter English (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019), 87 pp.

He stumbles as he says pretty much anything to himself — always while successfully conveying such stumbling to us. He feels that he owes everything to one place but knows that that place is “not here”  not the here of the place where he writes, not even the new “here”-ness the poem makes. How can a poet occupying the space of a page, the classic “here” where even a lost poet can call home, be alienated even from that “here”? The typical poetic existential “here I am” becomes a matter, always, of forgetting and remembering both. (It’s significant that one of the muses here is the poet’s mother, she who suffers from memory loss.)

 

Review of Ahmad Almallah, Bitter English (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019), 87 pp.

Note: This review was given as an introduction to Almallahs reading at the Kelly Writers House on October 15, 2019.

Laying poems away (PoemTalk #137)

Anne Sexton, 'The Ambition Bird'

Left to right: Ellen Berman, Anthony Rostain, Ahmad Almallah

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Al Filreis was joined by Ellen Berman, Anthony Rostain, and Ahmad Almallah to talk about Anne Sexton’s poem “The Ambition Bird” (1972). Berman and Rostain are practicing psychiatrists, and Almallah is a poet whose first book, Bitter English, is being published by University of Chicago Press. A film of Sexton reading the poem — available on YouTube — is the basis of the audio we extracted.

Ahmad Almallah: Finding the way between

Ahmad Almallah, screenshot from the film " Words Adorned: Andalusian Muwashshah Poetry "

In new poems Ahmad Almallah seeks not a way that is mapped or directed. Nor does he follow a course. His way — his poetic mode and compositional method — is to be scrappily “on the move” (as he writes in a new work), “the metal collecting / the way on the way.” The metapoetic nonnarrative gesture here is primarily aesthetic, of course (Almallah is a poet first and foremost — in intention, vocation, and desire), but the recalcitrant formal heterodoxy seems to be at the same time never an artist’s choice (I’m guessing he hates that MFA-program cliché) so much as an inexorable expression of obsessive topical urgency.

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