Taha Muhammad Ali is one of the leading poets on the contemporary Palestinian literary scene. Born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriya, he fled to Lebanon, together with most of the inhabitants of his village, during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. A year later after slipping across the border with his family, he found the village destroyed, and he settled in Nazareth, where he has lived ever since.
The Saffuriya of his childhood has served as the nexus of his poetry and fiction, which are grounded in everyday experience and driven by a storyteller’s vivid imagination. Taha Muhammad Ali writes in a forceful and direct style, with disarming humor and unflinching, at times painful, honesty — the poetry’s apparent simplicity and homespun truths concealing the subtle grafting of classical Arabic and colloquial forms of expression. Audiences worldwide have been powerfully moved by Taha Muhammad Ali’s poems of political complexity and humanity. Never Mind is the poet’s first collection to appear in English.
“In Muhammad Ali’s world, what appears to be placid can suddenly become disconcerting…. He is a beguiling story-teller who maintains a tone of credibility and lucidity without diluting the mysterious or distressing aspects of his tale…. By avoiding commonplace response to everyday experience [Muhammad Ali] has written poems that are fragile and graceful and fresh.”
John Palattella, The Nation
“A deeply humane collection … I have been living with this resonant little book for the past few weeks … and am grateful for its large embrace. Muhammad Ali speaks with an emotional forthrightness and unflinching honesty that at times reminds me of the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, at times of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. He writes in a literary Arabic grounded in the vernacular and rooted in local custom. … He has developed a style that seems both ancient and new, deceptively simple and movingly direct … [The poem] “Abd El-Hadi Fights a Superpower” should be required reading in Washington.”
The Washington Post
“Muhammad Ali exemplifies the marriage of folk-cultural rootedness and cosmopolitanism also found in the American poet Wendell Berry and Orkney’s George Mackay Brown. His free-verse poems … subtly disclose the implications of personal stories and situations…. Contains a splendid introduction to Ali the man and storyteller, and a sensuous prose story of childhood disappointment.”
“His patient, insistent and often beautiful iterations of who is who and what is what are as compelling and evocative as the faces and places that any reader has himself or herself loved …
It is immediately evident that the poet’s vision of experience is equally applicable to Arabs and Jews, kings and paupers, the quarter of the world’s population that is Chinese, and the other three-quarters as well. The more explicitly ‘political’ poems … may also be read as parables of the love and hate that bind all of us to home…. Never Mind is a must.”
ABD EL-HADI FIGHTS A SUPERPOWER
In his life
he neither wrote nor read.
In his life he
didn’t cut down a single tree,
didn’t slit the throat
of a single calf.
In his life he did not speak
of the New York Times
behind its back,
his voice to a soul
except in his saying:
“Come in, please,
by God, you can’t refuse.”
his case is hopeless,
His god-given rights are a grain of salt
tossed into the sea.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
about his enemies
my client knows not a thing.
And I can assure you,
were he to encounter
the entire crew
of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,
he’d serve them eggs
sunny side up,
fresh from the bag.
TAHA MUHAMMAD ALI is the author of four collections of poetry in Arabic and a collection of short stories.
PETER COLE’s most recent book of poems is What Is Doubled: Poems 1981–1998. A new volume, Things on Which I’ve Stumbled, is forthcoming from New Directions. Cole’s many volumes of translations from Hebrew and Arabic include The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492 (Princeton). He is a 2007 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
YAHYA HIJAZI was raised in Jerusalem’s Old City. He holds an M.A. from the Hebrew University and currently works at the Palestinian Counseling Center and David Yellin College.
GABRIEL LEVIN’s translations include On the Sea, by Yehuda Halevi, and The Little Bookseller Oustaz Ali, by Ahmed Rassim. Anvil Press published his second collection of poems, Ostraca, in 1999.
Paperback $11.95 127 pages ISBN 965-90125-27
THIS BOOK IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE FROM IBIS.
Never Mind has been reissued in expanded format–with additional poems, a translator’s preface, and facing Arabic–by Copper Canyon Press as So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005. We recommend it highly. You may order the book by visiting their website: