WHERE EPICS FAIL
KHWAJA KHUSRO TARIQ
Lababidi’s last book, Balancing Acts: New & Selected
Poems (1993-2015), debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Hot
New Releases, and was featured on PBS Newshour. Lababidi’s
first collection of aphorisms, Signposts to Elsewhere (Jane
Street Press) was selected as a 2008 ‘Book of the Year’
by The Independent, in the UK. He’s also the
author of a critically-acclaimed collection of essays, Trial
by Ink: From Nietzsche to Belly-Dancing; a series of ecstatic,
literary dialogues with Alex Stein, The Artist as Mystic:
Conversations with Yahia Lababidi.
term aphorism comes from the Greek aphorismos. Hippocrates
is the first one known to use it-as the title of a book containing
brief sketches of medical conditions and remedies. Over time
the definition of aphorisms has evolved to its current one:
a statement containing a general truth.
happen to believe though, that what we call aphorisms today
are the earliest form of poetry. I cannot imagine longer poems
with complex connected ideas evolving without a period where
local axioms and cultural sayings developed extensions and connections.
Before they added the philosopher’s stones of universal
archetypes that complete the alchemy of great poems.
of which is to say that aphorisms have not themselves evolved,
refined and become one of the supreme expressions of the poetic
had a chance to preview Yahia Lababidi’s new collection
of aphorisms (Where
Epics Fail), I can also tell you that there
is no better place to tap the hidden and manifest wisdom of
the aphorism than this sublime collection.
poetry is eclectic and through that very eclecticism it is unique.
Incorporating elements of spirituality, philosophy, romance
and-most charmingly-the art and alchemy of poetry itself, it
defies classification. What better way to illustrate this than
a few examples from the book itself:
, mistrustful of life’s bounty, is left with a fistful
of feathers (while The Great Beauty flies away).
shades of Confucius here, yet it is not a beauty of logic and
balance alone that the aphorism hints at. It is one enriched
by mystery. Here is also visible a rare poetic skill. This is
the ability to say much in a matter of one sentence of the English
language. Emily Dickinson is the name that comes to mind when
it comes to this ability-but if you spend some time unpacking
aphorisms like these in Lababidi’s books you will find
marvelous glimpses of it.
one who hates themselves, sees that hated self in everyone they
is one of the most poignant expressions of the psychological
phenomenon of 'projection.' One that speaks truer to the raw
human experience than any you will find in a text book.
finish with this, one of my favorite ones from the collection:
knowingness cheats itself out of true knowing.
one resonates profoundly not only with my own personal experiences
but with the troubled and confused soul of our times. There
is so much here to learn, so much to feel. In times of great
turmoil, be it pain, fear or anger that governs our feelings,
the only way to stay sane seems to be holding at bay the feelings
themselves. This for me is what defines the cynic’s motivations.
Not an innate apathy, not having insights other’s lack,
but fear. Namely a fear of pain and a fear of not knowing.
brings me back to Yahia Lababidi. There is romance, mystery
and even a hint of pain in his poetry. But what is present with
the most potent emotional energy is love and the need to heal
with love. And if you listen closely, some of this elixir may
find its way into your soul.
the intrusion of technology and the physical and emotional noise
it brings into our lives, poetry is alive and well. It’s
heart is beating with as much vigor as it ever did. It’s
power is just as earth-shaking and fierce as ever.
for it’s capacity to love and heal, traverse the passages
of Where Epics Fail to discover that.