Dictionary of Midnight


By Abdulla Pashew

Translated from the Kurdish by Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse

The sharp, lyrical verse— personal and political— of a poet that paints a literary window into his contested homeland, Kurdistan.

Published: December 3, 2019

Paperback: 9781944700805



With a foreword by National Book Award-winning author William T. Vollmann

Dictionary of Midnight collects almost 50 years of poetry by Abdulla Pashew, the most influential Kurdish poet alive today. Pashew’s poems chart a personal cartography of exile, recounting the recent political history of Kurdistan and its struggle for independence. Poet-translator Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse worked with the poet to select and translate his most iconic poems, balancing well-known, politically engaged contemporary Kurdish classics like “12 Lessons for Children” with the concise love lyrics that have always punctuated his work.

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When exile blows like a storm
over the plains of my peace,
when sadness like the black crow
at the threshold of my room
opens its wings and hovers,
I take the frozen-winged sparrow
of my grief and
I go, I go
to find a child
who with his sunny eyes can thaw
the wings of my sparrow and remind it how to fly.
But, my dear,
with my own eyes, many times I have seen
that when the children
in this city grieve,
they waddle like little ducks
to bathe in the lake of your eyes.


Two poems by Abdulla Pashew, excerpted in Literary Hub

“Dictionary of Midnight shows the lasting haunt of exile, but also the evocative powers of writing as testament to personal strife and a people’s lifelong yearning for home.” — Asymptote Journal