Thursday, March 3, 2016

Yahia Lababidi's Balancing Acts: New and Selected Poems (1993-2015) is now #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases

Christal Cooper

All excerpts given copyright privilege by Yahia Lababidi and Press 53

Yahia Lababidi’s Balancing Acts
“Writing Poetic Conversations In The Head”

I read, and carry on conversations in my head, which sometimes spill onto the page in the form of aphorisms, poems, and essays.  I write, primarily, in my head and transcribe it on the scraps of paper, napkins, even my iphone or whatever else is handy wherever the muse strikes – in bed, on the road, or at my desk.” 

Yahia Lababidi

       Yahia Lababidi’s sixth book, the poetry collection Balancing Acts:  New & Selected Poems 1993-2015, published by Press 53, is already available for pre-order on amazon. 

Lababidi’s other five books are Barely There (Wipf and Stock, 2013), The Artist as Mystic: Conversations with Yahia Lababidi (Onesuch Press, 2012), Fever Dreams (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2011), Trial by Ink: From Nietzsche to Belly Dancing (Common Ground Publishing, 2010), and Signposts to Elsewhere (Jane Street Press, 2008)

Balancing Acts: New and Selected Poems 1993-2015
is now #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Middle Eastern Poetry which is rare since the book has yet to be reviewed and only has been mentioned via word of mouth.
Press 53 is owned and operated by Kevin Morgan Watson and its editors, the legendary poets Pamela Uschuck and William Pitt Root, selected Balancing Acts: New & Selected Poems 1993-2015 for the Press 53’s Silver Concho poetry series.  

       “It is a remarkable thing to bind and put out into the world 20 plus year of confessing in verse, or being and becoming – which is how I see my New & Selected poems (1993-2015).  I hope the many selves and styles in this poetry collection, Balancing Acts, will be engaging to readers of literature and, ideally, even draw in some nonreaders, as well!”

       Lababidi, 42, was born in Cairo, Egypt where he had his first experience of writing poetry as a young child.  He wrote rhyming couplets for his grandmother whom he described as having the “smile as long as the Nile.”  He was named after his grandfather who was a poet and a musician. 

       It wasn’t until his mid-teens, while attending the International American School in Cairo, aka Cairo American College, that he finally recognized himself as a poet while reading Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray and Hesse’s lyrical novels.

I thought ‘I want to do that’. This further confirmed to me that I was implicated in the literary project.”    

Lababidi also fell in love with poetry written by Gibran, T.S. Eliot, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Rilke, and Rumi. 
         "To quote the Persian Master Rumi who spoke of the limitations of poetry when he had become a celebrated poet:  "What, after all, is my concern with Poetry?  In comparison with the true reality, I have no time for poetry.  It is the only nutrition that my visitors can accept, so like a good host I provide it."

         He attended George Washington University in Washington, DC where he majored in English and Humanities.
He spent a decade in Cairo, Egypt working with the United Nations as a speechwriter and editor.

He spent another decade in the United States as a freelance writer for magazines, a theater company, and a conflict resolution NGO.

During these two decades he also discovered a spirituality that helped him mature as a poet and make sense out of life.
       “Philosophy I left behind, after a ruinous decade or two, at the feet of Existentialist Nihilists.  My entry into spirituality was the Tao te Ching, a tremendous little book which I still return to.   

        I read the lives of Christian saints for inspiration, but more and more find myself drawn to Sufism, the mystical strain in Islam.”    
       During the past few years he kept up a correspondence with Pam Uschuck, when, in 2014 Uschuck contacted him about his book of collected poems.        

“I told her I was still massaging it and tweaking it and she looked at it (again) and then a year ago I got an official statement from Pam and Bill that said they would like to take that on.  I was ecstatic of course that is my whole life.  

We moved along and Kevin suggested it would be a better idea to make it a new and selected instead of collected edition.”
       Balancing Act is 204 pages of 157 poems with a forward by H.L. Hix.
       The most popular poem in the collection is “What Do Animals Dream?”
“It seems to get the most play, being included in a best-selling US college textbook, Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing (10th edition) and soon to be published as a stand alone, illustrated book by Onslaught Press."

What Do Animals Dream?

Do they dream of past lives and unlived dreams
unspeakably humor or unimaginably bestial?

Do they struggle to catch in their slumber
what is too slippery for the fingers of day?

Are there subtle nocturnal intimations
to illuminate their undreaming hours?

Are they haunted by specters of regret
do they visit their dead in drowsy gratitude?

Or are they revisited by their crimes
transcribed in tantalizing hieroglyphs?

Do they retrace the outline of their wounds
or dream of transformation, instead?

Do they tug at obstinate knots
of inassimilable longings and thwarted strivings?

Are there agitations, upheavals, or mutinies
against their perceived selves or fate?

Are they free of strengths and weaknesses peculiar
to horse, deer, bird, goat, snake, lamb or lion?

Are they ever neither animal nor human
but creature and Being?

Do they have holy moments of understanding
in the very essence of their entity?

Do they experience their existence more fully
relieved of the burden of wakefulness?

Do they suspect, with poets, that all we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream?

Or is it merely a small dying
a little taste of nothingness that gathers in their mouths?

       Lababidi’s inspiration for “What Do Animals Dream?” happened fifteen years ago, when he watched a sleeping dog display twitching and rapid eye movement.
      “And the idea was seeded:  What could it be dreaming?  When I sat down to actually write the poem, it expanded into a meditation on dreams and the human condition.  When I sat down to write the form of the poem, the imagery suggests itself.  My practice is to write on paper, and then type up on computer – out of a superstitious fear that once I type a poem up, the dye will stick (so to speak) and there will be no more room for it to breathe/grow/change.”

Visit Lababidi’s soundcloud page to hear him reading poetry that matters the most to him. and connect with him via twitter at Twitter: @YahiaLababidi

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