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I’ve been dipping into an anthology of Arab poetry, published in 2001. I expect it will need to be updated soon, with the Arab Spring doubtless producing an outflow of new and vital poetry reflecting the changing times. Meanwhile, this anthology – A Crack in the Wall: New Arab Poetry – edited by Margaret Obank and Samuel Shimon, introduces the reader to 60 writers across the Arab world. Some are well-known, like Mahmoud Darwish, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Khaled Mattawa, Venus Khoury-Ghata. But the majority are probably not familiar to Western readers.

This poem is by Palestinian poet Zakaria Mohammed. Mohammed studied literature at Baghdad University and has published two volumes of poetry, a novel and a collection of plays.


Night is opening its poisonous flower
it seeps through the sky
like a tincture spilt into water

Night is unfurling its flower
for the solitary insomniacs
who stumble along from step to step

Night is enfolding the city
as the homeless come out
from their doorways and basements

Night is opening its poisonous flower
as dread rolls down the stairs
like a melon