Here There Was Once a Country by Venus Khoury-Ghata

My friend Ilya recently recommended this book to me, and I think he’s nailed my taste! My taste in poetry leans toward the wondrous, magical-realist end of the spectrum, and Venus writes wondrous, magical poems. Her book is a village of people, alive and dead, tending to their tasks real and magical, with the routine of settled small lives. Buy here.

Some lines from various poems (the poems are unnamed):

He has that way of dragging his soul like a dog he wants to drive away.

In my village the sheep are so tall they graze on the bellies of clouds, . . .

Haha the shepherdess traveled thousands of miles to reach Ali’s dream / but he closed the door of is sleep in her face / Everything in its own time, he said / only darkness is permitted to wander around at night

The snow, she says, falls just to cover the trail of wolves on their way to the monastery where the moon never enters / it’s so afraid of being mistaken for a host.

Negligent mother / clouds of a dubious whiteness dried out on your clothesline / provoking the nightingales’ sarcasm and saddening the sun / you reported them missing to the police when the wind carried them out of the valley / called the wind a thief of sheets and cattle / then withdrew your complaint when the clouds came home to you, fog kneeling on your doorstep.

And here’s a poem in its entirety:

From our balconies, we watched the illness progress, attacking the old comets / our compassion going towards those which had left the populated areas and withdrawn to an outlying part of the sky / We watched them reel in the darkness / exhaust themselves climbing / stagger with their lanterns extinguished / we blew them out to put an end to their suffering / finished them off with a rifle-shot / then buried them in a hole in the air.