I am currently on spring break, visiting my beautiful older brother and his beautiful wife. Jordan has been my best friend for many many years, and we have had many discussions about pacifism and Israel and feminism and life. He has challenged me in ways that have been painful and powerful -- always needed and good.
Anyway. The point is that he just gave me a beautiful collection of poetry, selected (and sometimes translated) by Naomi Shihab Nye. The authors are all Middle Eastern (or North African) ranging from Turkey to Tunisia, and back again. It also includes some Israeli authors. There are beautiful illustrations accompanying the text, and information on all the poets in the back. The anthology is called The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East.
In her introduction, Nye writes that the Middle East is possibly the most negatively stereotyped place on earth. "I can't stop believing," she states, "that human beings everywhere hunger for deeper-than-headline news about one another. Poetry and art are some of the best ways this heartfelt 'news' may be exchanged." She goes on to recount her gradual exposure to the world of Arab poetry, and the vast heritage art and literature have in the Middle East. She concludes, "This is what I want a book of poems and paintings to be -- a surprising spring waking us from our daily sleep. A feast of little dishes. An unexpected walk along the rim of a majestic city. Ahlan Wa Sahlan -- You are all welcome!"
As she has mentioned elsewhere, if we read each other, we won't kill each other.