Water & Salt is the debut collection of Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, an American poet of Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian descent. The collection takes its title from Tuffaha’s ode to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners who, in 2014, undertook a hunger strike during which they refused to let anything except water and salt cross their lips. The poem, characteristic of Tuffaha’s interest in the capacity of language to convey both beauty and horror, quickly settles into a sort of chant, rhythmically enumerating the freedoms the hunger-strikers yearn for:
Of Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian heritage, Tuffaha offers a beautifully crafted debut that uses clear, observant language to explore the immigrant experience and the burdens of ongoing war. VERDICT Taking her from Beirut, Baghdad, Afghanistan, and a once-imprisoned Palestinian friend “whose eyes are like two pools of olive/ oil about to ignite,” Tuffaha’s journey is both immediately relevant and timelessly poetic.
Redmond writer Lena Khalaf Tuffaha has translated other poets from Arabic to English. She’s written beautifully about the experience in an essay on her website titled “Translation as Poetry.” She explains that the “first time I unlocked one of these phrases on my own, I felt like I had put on goggles and was happily diving into the cerulean deep of a pool after years of blurry immersion.”
Now Tuffaha is publishing her first book of poems with prestigious Pasadena publisher Red Hen Press. Water & Salt spans the globe, from Seattle to Jordan and back again.
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s Water & Salt is one of the most gorgeous renderings of the Levant I’ve ever read. Tuffaha, an Arab-American poet of Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian heritage, writes from a place of familial memory and nostalgia, a place of longing and loss, of displacement and deciphering home.
So To Speak Journal
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