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The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper

Few of us have had the opportunity to visit Djibouti, the small crook of a country strategically located in the Horn of Africa, which makes The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper all the more seductive. In his first collection of poetry, the critically acclaimed writer Abdourahman A. Waberi writes passionately about his country’s landscape, drawing for us pictures of “desert furrows of fire” and a “yellow chameleon sky.” Waberi’s poems take us to unexpected spaces—in exile, in the muezzin’s call, and where morning dew is “sucked up by the eye of the sun—black often, pink from time to time.”
            Translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson, Waberi’s voice is intelligent, at times ironic, and always appealing. His poems strongly condemn the civil wars that have plagued East Africa and advocate tolerance and peace. In this compact volume, such ideas live side by side as a rosary for the treasures of Timbuktu, destroyed by Islamic extremists, and a poem dedicated to Edmond Jabès, the Jewish writer and poet born in Cairo.
 “With Waberi, the juxtapositions—surprising, provocative, and original—form a good part of the thrill themselves.”—Words Without Borders

96 pages | 5 x 8 1/2 | © 2015

The Africa List


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“Novelist Waberi, the best-known contemporary writer from the East African nation of Djibouti, evokes ‘an entire life in the echo of my tongue’ in his first collection of poems. His terse sequences incorporate the region’s recent troubles with civil wars and Islamic extremists along with ancient fable and history. The Koranic story of Bilal recurs as a myth of national origin; the poet asks us to ‘let nomadic words live,’ with ‘oral ancestors’ shadow/ resisting harsh winters.’ Sometimes Waberi returns to the landscape: ‘my tree the aloe/ my flower the crack in the cactus/ my river none in my land.’ But his verse, in its trim stanzas and its thin lists, insists on its modernity too.”

Publishers Weekly

“Movement is essential to this collection of poetry as Waberi illustrates the landscape and life of Djibouti in his concise yet dense poems.”

World Literature Today

“Waberi writes the sort of spare, clear poetry one would expect of a poet whose chief subject matter is the desert. Born in Djibouti, Africa, Waberi selects his words with great care, which results in a book of extremely short, yet powerfully suggestive, pieces.”


Table of Contents

The Way of Simplicity
Caravan of Words
Here Is
Wind is a Calligrapher
Brief Discourse in the Style of Edmond Jabés
Ink Drawings
Sketch I
Sketch II
Canvas with Ochre and Foam
Night Collage
Untitled Canvas
Every Desire
The Elixir of Exile
After the Rain
A Sky Chart
Coral Riffs
Lament of the Lame Herdsman
Anatomy (She-Camel)
By Night
Japanese Cherry Tree
Eight Faces
Yesterday’s Tales
Shattered Vision
Grieving Dawn
Elegy for a Fly
White Thread, Black Thread
Rosary for Timbuktu

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