Winner of the 2020 Walt Whitman prize from the Academy of American Poets, this debut poetry collection by a Yemeni American woman asks how mis-translation can be a form of self-knowledge and survival. Almontaser offers a love letter to the country and people of Yemen, a portrait of young Muslim womanhood in New York after 9/11, and an examination of what it means to carry in the body the echoes of what came before.
Poets like Solmaz Sharif and Aria Aber have experimented with incorporating their native languages into their English poems, but Almontaser takes this practice to a new level ... While Almontaser’s hybrid poetics enriches this work immensely, the visual feast of scripts, languages, and cultures generated by these poems yields a reading experience that is at once more political and more personal. Readers will connect with the young woman at the center of this collection, who wears her 'city’s hatred as hijab.'
... performs a paradoxical feat. At 101 pages, it’s a long book; many of the poems are on the long side; and many of the lines are long. Yet there is no clutter or crowding here – only an exuberant fullness, such an abundance of captivating images and turns of phrase that it is hard to take everything in. Almontaser’s verbal richness doesn’t stall or cloy; rather, her bold poems convey the spaciousness afforded by freedom and truth-telling. They keep moving, and we try to keep pace ... Almontaser’s knack for titles suggests the range of her subject matter ... In these confident, capacious, generous poems, which face tragedy without sentimentality or bitterness, there are echoes of poets such as Ishion Hutchinson, Erica Dawson and Emily Skaja (and of the poet whose name graces the award this remarkable book recently won: Walt Whitman), but Almontaser’s poetic voice is very much her own.
... a vast and celebratory exploration of language, family, and diasporic identity ... The price of diaspora is always a certain kind of exile, but The Wild Fox of Yemen espouses neither sentimental nostalgia nor doomed isolation. Carefully rendered and expertly voiced, it asserts both the contradictions and the inherent dignity of its chosen subjects with equal force and insistence. These poems overflow with an abundance of life—poignant and melancholic, sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious, and always filled with beauty.