"There's no need to speak, return to sleep.
But when you rise, try to remember me.
And to keep awake."
(from the poem Encounter by Yahia Lababidi)
(photo taken from the website Famous Poets and Poems)
The world of technology is simply fantastic - thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other forms of social media, a woman in Memphis, Tennessee can correspond with people in New Orleans, Boston, Europe, South America, and other far corners of the globe without leaving her apartment or even car. Since diving into the world of social media years ago, I have met many wonderful, insightful, creative, and just good people - while I have met some in person, others remain only a face or words in the aether. However, it is no less real or meaningful if a friendship is developed through those means. So was the case when I "met" Egyptian-American poet Yahia Lababidi through a mutual friend on Facebook. Lababidi is one of the most prolific poets I've ever read, alive or dead.
I do love poetry; I think it has a place in today's world and needs to still be loved and enjoyed by all. Lababidi's words speak across race and genders, ages and religion. His words come in the form of a mystic dreamer, one who has seen and experienced much and can only translate his sights into words that flow from his mouth like perfumed breezes. When he contacted me to read and review his newest book, Balancing Acts: New and Selected Poems 1993-2015, I was flattered. When I read the book this morning, I printed off poems that especially spoke to me and will keep them in a special place.
Lababidi is a storyteller wrapped carefully in the package of a poet - his words and images will amaze and make you think, or give you pause to wonder just what and why everything is the way it is. When you read his poetry, you can actually hear his voice (although I've never heard his voice!) and it is calming. He chooses the words carefully so as not to waste neither his time nor yours and the result is worth it.
One of my favourite poems in his book is Discarded People - simple, haunting, and truly shows off his imagination:
Discarded people like plastic bottles
litter streets sidewalks and benches
out to air their cramped crumpled spirits
from roaming in long forgotten drawers
- staring intently at Nowhere, in particular.
Another one of my favourites is The Museum-going Cannibal; here, he shows off his whimsical and darker side while retaining the flavour of his voice and refusing to go to extremes. The last four lines wrap up the mini story quite nicely in the form of lingering beauty that quickly turns evil when you blink:
What a mixed bag of bones - when not frenzied
and teetering at the abyss of some bestial appetite,
turning around and donating blood to unknowns:
as charitable and vulnerable as a winged thing.
When I told him that I thoroughly enjoyed his book and to look for my review, he sent me several nature photographs from his friends - "One can never have enough beauty," he said. I will admit that it touched my heart to receive such beautiful photos and words from him. It also made me realize that in this world, there is still hope. People still dream.
Thank you, Yahia, for your words and dreams. I look forward to "listening" to you again very soon.
Truly, the soul of a poet.