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By Ira Mark Milne

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The subtle music and internal rhythms of Saadi’s poetry are delicately rendered by the translator as in the finale of a poem entitled ‘‘Spanish Plaza’’ (1965) . . Saadi’s poetry avoids declamation and resounding statements. It is as if the poet is engaged in an intimate conversation and we— as readers—overhear him. Even his political poems have a subdued tone. They do not lend themselves to recital on a platform, nor can his 1 3 A m e r i c a , A m e r i c a verse be borrowed for a slogan. In a sequence of poems written in besieged Beirut in 1982, Saadi describes life at the edge in haiku-like minimalism.

She adds that the poet ‘‘has been fearless in privileging the language and the cultural forms of everyday life, as well as mundane images, in complexly structured polyphonic poems. ’’ Mattawa writes, ‘‘Youssef’s greatest contribution to contemporary Arabic poetry lies in his consistent effort P o e t r y f o r S t u d e n t s , V o l u m e 2 9 Bussey is an independent writer specializing in literature. In the following essay, she compares Saadi Youssef’s depiction of the United States in ‘‘America, America’’ to the ways American poets, such as Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Carl Sandburg, and Marilyn Chin, have depicted America in their works.

The poetry in it arises from the poet’s ability to make the agony of the young mother unique through imagery and rhythm. By both repetition and austere minimalism, Yusuf creates what he later calls al-qasida al-mutaqashifa, that is, the ascetic poem (Yusuf, ‘‘Letter,’’ 1994). Because of the intensity of his language, its selfconsciousness, its playfulness, and its ultimate defamiliarizing of the familiar, Yusuf’s poetry would be the delight of the New Critic and the Russian Formalist. In a crucial passage from his Russian Formalism: History, Doctrine (1955), Victor Erlich identifies the technique by which the poet is able to transform ordinary language into poetry: If in informative ‘prose,’ a metaphor aims to bring the subject closer to the audience or drive a point home, in ‘poetry’ it serves as a means of intensifying the intended aesthetic effect.

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