What We Are Reading Today: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern

What We Are Reading Today: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern
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Updated 02 December 2022

What We Are Reading Today: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern

What We Are Reading Today: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern

Author: Jed Rasula

When T. S. Eliot published The Waste Land in 1922, it put the 34-year-old author on a path to worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize. “But,” as Jed Rasula writes, “The Waste Land is not only a poem: It names an event, like a tornado or an earthquake. Its publication was a watershed, marking a before and after. It was a poem that unequivocally declared that the ancient art of poetry had become modern.”

In What the Thunder Said, Rasula tells the story of how The Waste Land changed poetry forever and how this cultural bombshell served as a harbinger of modernist revolution in all the arts, from abstraction in visual art to atonality in music.


Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023
Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023
  • Former software engineer gave up his job to pursue his dream in 2012, moving to New York City

DUBAI: Saudi poet, translator and literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali has worn many hats over the course of his career, but the Dubai-based writer — set to speak at a panel at the upcoming Emirates Airline Festival of Literature — started out as a software engineer.

“I wasn’t satisfied being a software engineer who has no time to read books except before sleeping. ‘There are people who read all day and get money for doing that,’ I told myself. By that time, I was aware of the literary scene in the Arab world, had written two poetry collections, translated three titles into Arabic, and had my articles published in newspapers and edited many books. I taught myself everything I needed,” he told Arab News. 

“Then, in 2012, I resigned from my job, applied for a scholarship, and flew to New York City with no clue that I will study publishing. I just went there to be in the center of the world and to have my chance to do something with my life.”

Al-Ali — along with children’s publisher and writer Amal Farah and poet and writer Qasim Saudi — will speak on the panel “How to Market Your Book” at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature on Feb. 3 at 4 p.m. If there were a debate on the topic, it would be fair to assume that Al-Ali would advocate for authors sticking to writing and writing well, and nothing else.

When asked if authors should really be worrying about the marketing side of the publishing business, Al-Ali said: “Marketing books is the tool book sellers and book outlets use to sell the ‘products’ they offer, which is the job of neither the publishing house nor the author. Publishing houses should market their authors and brand them. Why do you think a planner that features quotes by Margaret Atwood would sell more than some of her titles? Authors need to know that writing good books and caring for their public image are all that they can do and ought to do.”

Currently working as the managing editor at Sharjah’s Kalimat Group and its fiction imprint, Al-Ali is responsible for introducing the Arab world to international authors like James Baldwin, Raymond Carver, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, John Ashbery, Ali Smith, Michael Ondaatje, John Banville and Claire Messud.

He has also personally translated several English novels. “Paul Auster’s ‘The Invention of Solitude’ is so close to my heart because I was discovering NYC in real life and also discovering it through the literature of this author,” he said when asked to pick a favorite.

But what Al-Ali is probably most known for are his poetry collections. Poetry, to Al-Ali, is the medium best suited to “seeking the truth” about the world.

“I tried in each of my books to illuminate one topic. My ‘Facing Skype’ book discovers having an avatar in social media versus your real persona in real social life. ‘The Drifter’s Guide to NYC’ is about the known and hidden gems of the city written in prose poetry. ‘Lavender, Hotel California’ claims that this life is a ‘hotel’ and tests this claim via various poems,” said Al-Ali.  

The author’s current work-in-progress, a project about oil-hunting in the region, is “a work of poetry, research, translation and editing; it embodies everything I can do.”

But, unsurprisingly, the poet inside Al-Ali is jaded by the current state of the literary world.

“My generation and the younger ones are caught in the web of competitions and awards; they are not seeking anything real. If you don’t realize that there are huge efforts to program people, and that we are in a matrix and you must break through, then what do you know as a poet?” he said.


What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain
Updated 31 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

Edited by Nikolas Rose & Des Fitzgerald

Most of the world’s people now live in cities and millions have moved from the countryside to the rapidly growing megacities of the global south.

How does the urban experience shape the mental lives of those living in and moving to cities today? Sociologists study cities as centers of personal progress and social innovation, but also exclusion, racism, and inequality. Psychiatrists try to explain the high rates of mental disorders among urban dwellers, especially migrants.

But the split between the social and life sciences has hindered understanding of how urban experience is written into the bodies and brains of urbanites.


What We Are Reading Today: Policing the Black Man

What We Are Reading Today: Policing the Black Man
Updated 30 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Policing the Black Man

What We Are Reading Today: Policing the Black Man

Author: Angela J. Davis

A comprehensive, readable analysis of the key issues of the Black Lives Matter movement, this thought-provoking and compelling anthology features essays by some of the nation’s most influential and respected criminal justice experts and legal scholars.

The book explores and critiques the many ways the criminal justice system impacts the lives of African American boys and men at every stage of the criminal process from arrest through sentencing.

Essays range from an explication of the historical roots of racism in the criminal justice system to an examination of modern-day police killings of unarmed black men, according to a review on goodreads.com.

The co-authors discuss and explain racial profiling, the power and discretion of police and prosecutors, the role of implicit bias, the racial impact of police and prosecutorial decisions, and the disproportionate imprisonment of black men.


What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?
Updated 30 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

Edited by Bruce D. Perry, Oprah Winfrey

“What Happened to You?” provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns which many of us struggle to understand. This book is going to change the way you see your life.

When questioning our emotions, it’s easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. The book tells us that it’s time we started asking a different question.

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves.


What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation
Updated 28 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

Edited by Paula Marantz Cohen

“Talking Cure” is a timely and enticing excursion into the art of good conversation. Paula Marantz Cohen reveals how conversation connects us in ways that social media never can and explains why simply talking to each other freely and without guile may be the cure to what ails our troubled society. 

Drawing on her lifelong immersion in literature and culture and her decades of experience as a teacher and critic, Cohen argues that we learn to converse in our families and then carry that knowledge into a broader world where we encounter diverse opinions and sensibilities.