The images are surreal, yet full of tenderness and danger ... In most of these poems, Alyan uses long lines or avoids lineation all together as she does in the collection's prose poems. These choices let story and tone come through most strongly. Her lines are so vivid I often feel as if I'm watching a documentary ... a book of triumph, the worlds courageously explored, the speaker, and the reader, changed.
Nothing is taboo here. There are honest discussions about sex, drinking, and trauma ... Alyan exposes her life and her roots without shame, even when her words could lead to judgment. In poem after poem, there is raw emotion, straightforward storytelling, and unapologetic truth ... the reader, like the author, is never on solid ground, never entirely comfortable ... The Twenty-Ninth Year stuck with me because it contains stunning lines, while being entirely about going through things and learning to cope with them ... The poems here read like scars and sound like heartbreaking stories told by a friend in the darkest booth at a gloomy juke joint.
The speedy prose poems and long, wiry lines of The Twenty-Ninth Year link Alyan’s Palestinian heritage, her peripatetic family history, her travels across the United States, and her own emotional ups and downs: in and out of a marriage, out of alcoholism, into recovery ... her poems do not put down roots...they stay in motion, zipping between the many regions that have shaped her life. That’s not just a matter of proper nouns (though it is that too) but a matter of jump cuts and curtailed sentences, of poems whose grammar, also, will not stay put ... In prose poems, in long-lined couplets, the lines spark and zap and speed up as they go on: these forms have no built-in stopping points, nor do they require lengthy sentences—they can just stop and go, stop and go, overshoot, spiral, return ... Alyan and her mercurial phrases seem to belong nowhere, at least for now: they show how it feels to keep on going, to identify with people, or peoples, who cannot stay in one place. That migratory restlessness, now, as in centuries past, is a source of style: it, too, can take us lands away. And it puts the lie to factitious complaints about how some poetry is universal, while other poets depend on identity: everybody has multiple identities...just as everyone has a place of origin, and everyone who isn’t homeless has a home.