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Geographies of Light: THe Lighted Landscape of Hope
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Rehnuma Sazzad
Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge


 Lisa Suhair Majaj’s Del Sol Press Poetry Prize 2010 winning collection of verses (Del Sol Press, Washington, D.C., 2009, pp. 133) presents a wonderful landscape, which is filled with the presence of light. The landscape spreads over different continents and establishes the poet’s belief and hope in humanity by building up an imaginative geography in which she feels at home. 

 Since the Palestinian-American—born in Iowa, brought up in Amman, educated in Beirut and Michigan, and now living in Cyprus—cannot locate the map she can exclusively claim as her own, she decides to create one for herself through her poetry. How does she draw the lines of this unusual map, though? In my view, Majaj’s cartographic skill is the most significant aspect of this collection, for she determines the lines of her imaginative map in a brilliant way. She achieves them by joining the multitude of tiny drops of light emanating from the concrete goodness and warmth of human heart. Majaj excavates her experiences in order to trace the human connection with nature, the fellow human beings, and even the greater celestial environment amidst the struggle to live, to come to terms with losses and deep traumas, and of course, the joys of living. Thus, the poet expresses how the light of the human heart becomes visible to her through her life and reality on earth. 

Therefore, her poetic mission seems to be to keep knitting the shawl made up of the drops of light that she discovers around her, for one cannot fight against darkness with further darkness. Instead, one needs more and more light-drops to drive it out. Understandably, the drops are not as innumerable as to be readily visible. Therefore, the particles of light that adorn Majaj’s landscape delineating her memories, visions, and emotions are hard-earned through her constant search for them. Reading the book, therefore, one is bound to have the feeling that Majaj never ceases to collect the particles to keep forming her ideal map of belonging. As a result, this book of poetry is about keeping focus on the collection, despite the change of places, events and situations that define the poet’s life. 


In the end, Majaj’s unbudging belief in our essential humanity makes her resistance to injustice so empowering. Her verses make us experience a remarkable uplifting and rejuvenation of spirit. In the ultimate analysis, comparing her lines to the elegance, expanse, and intensity of the Darwishian ones may be left to the judgment of the reader, but who could either forget or disbelieve as sincere a promise as this: 

Low sun flares its crimson light 

across the land. It will rise again tomorrow, 

vigilant and weary as hope. (119) 

The success of this prize winning collection should become comprehensible now. The clarity of vision, the sincerity of search, and the power of hope encountered in the book through the verses like the above remind us again and again of our distinct planetary existence. Reading Majaj, we surely realize that whatever differences of skin, colour, or map we may have, we are the neighbours of the stars by dint of inhabiting a tiny planet that has not yet stopped its orbit round its own star.