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Posted on November 20 2020

Looking back on his year as PBS Translation Selector, Ilya Kaminsky has chosen Lean Against This Late Hour by the Iranian poet Garous Abdolmalekian as his poetry in translation book of 2020.

Looking back on 2020, one book of poetry in translation keeps coming to mind: "Lean Against This Late Hour" by Garous Abdolmalekian, masterfully translated by Ahmad Nadalizadeh and Idra Novey (Penguin).

Why? Because this book announces to the English-speaking world that there are, indeed, still great poets in our day and age. He can be lyrical:

Then you arrived
with bits of late hours
stuck to your slippers

and he can be devastating:

Tomorrow morning
humanity will enter the alley and the trees will hide
out of terror 
behind the sparrows

He shows us that there's is still the possibility for the lyric voice to assume something larger, to give shape and form to a myths and dreams that speak out of devastation:

Who has dislocated the world? And why are birds circling in our stomachs?

In these urgent lyrics, the war and memory are everywhere; they are the magnetic field that charges the pages of exquisite precision.

But Abdolmalekian is a poet who never gives in to the despair: out of history's devastation comes a new and beautiful song.

- Ilya Kaminsky

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