Four Cities


“Following her mesmerizing debut collection ATRIUM, Hala Alyan offers a sustaining and luminous meditation on love and war in FOUR CITIES. Baghdad, New York, Beirut, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Detroit and Paris are just names on maps, “for when maps fold and countries vanish…it is just you and the dust you carry on your skin.” These gritty, volatile communities dissolve into dreamscapes, redolent with lemons, dazzled with snow, awake to conversation and kisses. The sky is always open for possibilities: fireworks, moonlight, the call to prayer, dandelions parachuting through the air. What a splendid majestic if troubled world we find ourselves in love in.”
—D.A. Powell, author of Chronic and Cocktails

“The poems in FOUR CITIES are soaked in music and are haunted by all of music’s radiant possibilities. They glisten with the difficult world’s luminous grit.”
—Kazim Ali, author of The Far Mosque

“Hala Alyan creates a realm of dark mystery, dazzling us with beauty while ever-aware of the world’s ongoing conflict and turmoil. Her voice is at once intimate and oracular, personal and political. In ‘Ya Bint,’ the speaker recalls how, ‘[b]efore your mother died, / she would extract fish bones, one after the / other, giving you the good, clean meat.’ Prepare to emerge from this collection transformed, as Alyan revels in and reinvents language in a manner that opens us to new perceptions. A striking and vividly-rendered collection.”
—Dilruba Ahmed, author of Dhaka Dust

‘Where are the small miracles?’ Alyan asks in her poem ‘Sestina for December,’ and they can be found on each page of this book. Miraculous the lush descriptions and gnostic wonder, miraculous the imagistic leaps and perpetual surprise. In FOUR CITIES I found a city where blue jazzes its way onto your buttons, one in which you braid hair and ask for lighting, one where ecstasy murmurs God’s name against red seeds, and one where the muezzin sings only for the dead. These poems are miraculous in their elusive lyric machinery, taking you half way around the world to a new city, filling you with a new and devastating awe.”
—Traci Brimhall, author of Our Lady of the Ruins