Ashes in the Air by Ali Alizadeh

This review first appeared in the March 2011 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

UQP, March 2011 (Aus)
9780702238727

What do we want from a book of poetry? We want each poem to paint a picture, to shake us up a little, and to ultimately reach down inside us and peel something back. Ali Alizadeh’s poems do all of these things. They are stories and they are personal, many of them seethe with rage at the injustices (and also the blandness) found in all corners of the globe. Alizadeh explores his own internal conflict of straddling two worlds and never completely feeling he belongs – in Iran or Australia, or in the places he has visited. He explores the generally paradoxical nature of peace, freedom and choice.

The poems are personal (deeply so) but political, social, philosophical and definitely meaningful. Subjects range from the self, to freedom of speech, the inadequacy of language, environmental destruction, war, childhood, friendship, love – but these distinctions cannot capture the complexity of the poet’s emotion (which is sometimes even a destructive and self-destructive drive). Yet, the poems are simply written: evocative and vivid, with subtext in layers.

The collection makes a perfect companion to Alizadeh’s wonderful biography/history Iran: My Grandfather (Transit Lounge). Alizadeh’s work is important and I’d hope the average reader might pick him up and be enlightened.

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