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Khaled Mattawa
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Khaled Mattawa

"Amorisco is a nonce word that combines the Spanish 'amor' and 'Morisco.' Moriscos were Iberian Muslims (Moors) who in the 15th to the 17th centuries were given the choice to convert to Catholicism or leave Iberia. Most were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition. Inspired by that historical juncture and its metaphorical suggestions, Amorisco is above all a formal challenge. Some of the poems are lyrics of twenty lines or shorter, inspired by the distillation and conceptual density of Antonia Machado, Saadi Youssef, and Rainer Maria Rilke. I wanted to write in that pure mode that seems to transcend time and circumstance, and that it many cases acts as a skeleton upon which much of poetry is placed. In the longer poems that range freely among pressing questions and unresolved episodes I work in counter-mode attaching, welding, and knotting as much material (and prose) to a lyric impulse as it could handle. Of course, I love the lyric mode, but I sometimes resist its taciturn wisdom and the purity of its bones. So in the case of Amorisco, I try to challenge it by keeping the kinds of materials lyric exercises, but that remain vital and relevant nonetheless."—Khaled Mattawa

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For Amorisco, Khaled Mattawa

"Amorisco is a book of shifting sands and apple-scented smoke, a book of surfaces whose solidity erodes or fractures or flowers unexpectedly, a book of history and secrets and secret histories, a book of supplication and vision which returns the lyric to its ancient roots in song and prayer. It is most of all a book about love and loss, which makes sense, for Khaled Mattawa is, as he tells us, a poet 'strangely in love with the world, ripe to be in love.' There is, of course, erotic love—'we’re naked now like arrows in flight, lustful/ for the lover and the grape stains on her cheeks'—but the complex ambiguities of familial love are his central concern, in poems about parents, children, partnership and separation. Mattawa is also a poet of cultural witness, tracking the self and society in their coercive conversation, attending to both 'the sound of my footsteps/and the world’s roar.' In this volume, his native North Africa is the world evoked most richly, from the Roman past of Augustine and Marcus Aurelius, to the politically-fraught present day. So it is no surprise that Amorisco is also a book of mint tea and wild artichokes, legendary dulcimer players and desperate immigrants. No surprise, perhaps, but still a delight for mind and ear. I wish more of our poetry had this depth of humanistic engagement. I wish more poets would risk the commitment to compassion as not just an imaginative but a political act that Khaled Mattawa does, when he asks, 'What else can I do but love what casts a shadow?'"—Campbell McGrath

"In a contemporary world that is constantly fragmenting, Amorisco stands as a collection full of admittance, but also of hope."—World Literature Today

"There is much of love in this slim volume—and much also of longing and of the soreness of the journey."—Kingdom Books Blog

"This is Khaled Mattawa's call in Amorisco, to 'see the elements,' to accept their mutability, to hope and to keep reaching for a truth that eludes, and above all to love and praise, despite the flaws."—World Literature Today

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