Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Competition
In her third poetry collection, Hijra, Hala Alyan creates poems of migration and flight reflecting and bearing witness to the haunting particulars in her transnational journey as well as those of her mother, her aunts, and the female ancestors in Gaza and Syria.
The reader sees war, diaspora, and immigration, and hears the marginalized voices of women of color. The poems use lyrical diction and striking imagery to evoke the weight of an emotional and visceral journey. They grow and build in length and form, reflecting the gains the women in the poems make in re-creating selfhood through endurance and strength.
In prose, narrative, and confessional-style poems, Alyan reflects on how physical space is refashioned, transmitted, and remembered. Her voice is distinct, fresh, relevant, and welcoming.
“Hala Alyan’s prize book is cogent and unfailingly beautiful. The Arabic word hijra, rooted in Mohammed’s undaunted escape to Medina, implies an honorable departure, and the intrepid female speaker of these vigilant, striking poems, in her telltale flight toward sanity, integrity, and safety, is wholly committed to creating a bomb-proof, dazzling language capable of conveying the phantom horror of a ‘perished city’ or the grace of downcast mothers ‘draping headstones with myrrh and lace.’ Hijra is no ordinary outcry or lament: with her electric metaphors and protean descriptions (‘asters the colors of sea glass’), everything Hala Alyan touches in this keen, ruby-like book, turns to priceless testimony and needed revelation, annealing legend and hard-won song.”—Cyrus Cassells, author of The Crossed-Out Swastika