Translated from the Arabic and introduced by Fady Joudah, You Can Be the Last Leaf draws on two decades of work to present the transcendent and timely US debut of Palestinian poet Maya Abu Al-Hayyat. Art. Garlic. Taxis. Sleepy soldiers at checkpoints. The smell of trash on a winter street, before "our wild rosebush, neglected / by the gate, / blooms." Lovers who don't return, the possibility that you yourself might not return. Making beds. Cleaning up vomit. Reading recipes. In You Can Be the Last Leaf, these are the ordinary and profound--sometimes tragic, sometimes dreamy, sometimes almost frivolous--moments of life under Israeli occupation. Here, private and public domains are inseparable. Desire, loss, and violence permeate the walls of the home, the borders of the mind. And yet that mind is full of its own fierce and funny voice, its own preoccupations and strangenesses. "It matters to me," writes Abu Al-Hayyat, "what you're thinking now / as you coerce your kids to sleep / in the middle of shelling" whether it's coming up with "plans / to solve the world's problems," plans that "eliminate longing from stories, remove exhaustion from groans," or dreaming "of a war / that's got no war in it," or proclaiming that "I don't believe in survival." In You Can Be the Last Leaf, Abu Al-Hayyat has created a richly textured portrait of Palestinian interiority--at once wry and romantic, worried and tenacious, and always singing itself.
About the Author
Maya Abu Al-Hayyat is the author of You Can Be the Last Leaf. She is also the editor of The Book of Ramallah: A City in Short Fiction and a contributor to A Bird Is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry. Her work has been published in The Guardian, the Irish Times, and Literary Hub. She is the director of the Palestine Writing Workshop, an institution that seeks to encourage reading in Palestinian communities through creative writing projects and storytelling with children and teachers. Abu Al-Hayyat lives in Jerusalem and works in Ramallah. Fady Joudah is the translator of You Can Be the Last Leaf. He is also the author of five collections of poems, including, most recently, Tethered to Stars and Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance. He has translated from the Arabic collections by Mahmoud Darwish, Ghassan Zaqtan, and Amjad Nasser, and is the coeditor and cofounder of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. He was a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 2007 and has received the Griffin Poetry Prize, a PEN USA award for translation, a Banipal/Times Literary Supplement prize from the UK, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in Houston, with his wife and kids, where he practices internal medicine.