PBS TRANSLATION SELECTOR ILYA KAMINSKY'S BOOK OF 2020
"Abdolmalekian is a poet who never gives in to the despair: out of history's devastation comes a new and beautiful song." - Ilya Kaminsky
Lean Against This Late Hour, translated by Idra Novey and Ahmad Nadalizadeh, is the first selection of poems by renowned Iranian poet Garous Abdolmalekian to appear in English, this collection is a mesmerizing, disorienting descent into the trauma of loss and its aftermath. In spare lines, Abdolmalekian conjures surreal, cinematic images that pan wide as deftly as they narrow into intimate focus. Time is a thread come unspooled: pain arrives before the wound, and the dead wait for sunrise. Abdolmalekian resists definitive separations between cause and effect, life and death, or heaven and hell, and challenges our sense of what is fixed and what is unsettled and permeable. Though the speakers in these poems are witnesses to the deforming effects of grief and memory, they remain alive to curiosity, to the pleasure of companionship, and to other ways of being and seeing. Lean Against This Late Hour illuminates the images we conjure in the face of abandonment and ruin, and finds them by turns frightening, bewildering, ethereal, and defiant. This time, a disembodied voice commands, send us a prophet who only listens.
"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