THE WORLD’S EMBRACE: SELECTED POEMS
City Lights Books
Every once in a while, you encounter an unfortunate soul who tries to sell you on literature’s primary (only to the far right-wingers) purpose—the conveyance of beauty. If said people possess any respect for world literature, they will find Essential Rumi on the Barnes and Noble bargain shelf, do some research and discover The World’s Embrace. If very few of Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laabi’s lines stand out, it’s because these poems serve their purpose only when considered as cohesive statements regarding the nature of existence, suffering, renewal, etc. This approach is often synonymous with the effort to convey some aspect of the individual experience vis-à-vis the universal (the title is evidence of this). Yet, if composed with anything less than brilliance, the poetry is often slave to overwhelmingly vague sentiment. I assumed a book of Moroccan poetry would possess something out of the literary ordinary (like Mohammed Mrabet’s phantasmagoric folktales). Not to say there is nothing of value in Laabi’s words (some sequences are sneakily enchanting), but the overall scope of the work and treatment of the subjects remains bland. –J. Thomas Burch, Esq.