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.
... 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.
... [a] brilliant debut ... The beautifully crafted poems can feel like mini-histories, intricate narratives spanning only a few pages. They overflow with richness and opportunities for interpretation, shifting between Arabic and English; yet they are self-contained and pointed as a missile ... Almontaser is cunning in how she exposes the strength of overlapping languages. She’s also incensed; she also handles storytelling, family history, with grace. The Wild Fox of Yemen turns language into its own character, a fact of daily life we take for granted.
When you couple the short words and sentences with the frequent alliteration, the poem sounds like a rallying call; it’s difficult to read Almontaser’s words without wanting to join her in arms against whatever weak-willed versions of ourselves hide in the bushes. Both the hunted and the huntress, Almontaser uses this power dynamic to embody the war the speaker wages against her younger self as well as the one that wages between Yemeni and American identities ... In her struggle to find words, Almontaser has created a new language ... Like the collection’s title animal, The Wild Fox of Yemen is a shapeshifter, a revolt against forced binaries, a refusal to be fed lies that cause so many others to starve.