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.