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Dictionary of Midnight

Dictionary of Midnight

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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.

Publication Date: 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.

Biographical Note

When he gives readings in Kurdistan, Abdulla Pashew draws audiences in the thousands. In addition to his eight volumes of poetry, Pashew is a prolific translator, fluent in Russian and English, responsible for bringing Whitman and Pushkin to Kurdish readership. He holds a master's degree in pedagogy and a doctorate in philology. Dictionary of Midnight is the first book-length selection of his poetry to appear in English.

Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse is a poet, translator, and co-director of Kashkul, a research, translation, and arts collaborative. She has lived and worked in Iraq since 2011, during which time she has dedicated herself to bringing Kurdish poets to English-speaking audiences, including Kajal Ahmad's Handful of Salt. Her poems, translations, and essays have appeared in The Iowa Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, The Sewanee Review, and World Literature Today, among others.


Two poems by Abdulla Pashew have been excerpted in Literary Hub!

"Dictionary of Midnight shows the lasting haunt of exile, but also the evocative powers of writing as testament to personal strife and a people's lifelong yearning for home." Asymptote



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.