Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance
An exquisite and humane collection set to leave its mark on American poetics of the body and the body politic.
In Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance, Fady Joudah has written love poems to the lovely and unlovely, the loved and unloved. Here he celebrates moments of delight and awe with his wife, his mentors, his friends, and the beauty of the natural world. Yet he also finds tenderness for the other, the dead, and the disappeared, bringing together the language of medicine with the language of desire in images at once visceral and vulnerable. A symptomatic moon. A peach, quartered like a heart, and a heart, quartered like a peach. “I call the finding of certain things loss.”
Joudah is a translator between the heart and the mind, the flesh and the more-than-flesh, the word body and the world body—and between languages, with a polyglot’s hyperresonant sensibility. In “Sagittal Views,” the book’s middle section, Joudah collaborates with Golan Haji, a Kurdish Syrian writer, to foreground the imaginative act of constructing memory and history. Together they mark the place the past occupies in the body, the cut that “runs deeper than speech.”
Generous in its scope, inventive in its movements and syntax, Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance is a richly rewarding and indispensable collection.
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Praise and Prizes
“An intensely vulnerable book. Fady Joudah has been writing essential poetry for some time, but few books of American poetry seem to me as essential as this one: it is forging a lyric that works at the crosscurrents of reportage, myth, and dream where falsely imagined boundaries—of gender, nation, family—fray and unfold. Joudah’s gifts for articulating the intersections of bewilderment, tenderness, rage, and grief are fully alive here. These poems blaze into the visionary.”
“Disappearing footnotes to the vertiginous—and illegible—text of our time? Meanings unmoored between pillager and villager? Between toothsome and toothache? The limits of our language may well be the limits of our world. At moments, however, Fady Joudah’s language, its restless questing, seems limitless, its space fractured yet unbounded, its urgency ever palpable.”
“If you love poetry, or simply wonder what powerful poetry is and what it can do for you, then the poems of Fady Joudah are waiting for you. Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance is an impossibly beautiful mix of magic, science and skepticism. Poems such as ‘1st Love,’ ‘Bean Stalk,’ and ‘The Scream’––among others––are among the best I’ve read in ages. This is a book that’s hard to put down. It’s difficult not to feel utterly changed after having read it.”
“Fady Joudah’s masterful Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance combines ecstasy and irony, or perhaps conveys an ecstatic sense of irony that trusts the imagination’s associations. The poet’s exilic experience and his profession as a physician, his sites of testimony, offer him and us multiple prisms to move outward in the world and inward into the self, in a reserved tone that preserves ache and joy intact. Joudah’s mission is perhaps to spiritualize our minds, and to catch the heart in its deepest modes of thinking, and the outcome is lyric of the highest order.”
“Fady Joudah’s exquisite Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance engages simultaneously in the acts of giving and receiving under a canopy of tremendous questions—about everyday violence and healing, about humanity and prayer, about wars and how impossible they are. The poems are full of remarkable epiphanies that speak to our contemporary discomforts in ways that are affirming while also recognizing our immediate need to be heard. An extraordinary, vital book.”
“Can a doctor diagnose the body politic? Yes, if he is also a poet. Fady Joudah examines his subject with an eye both clinical and caring, alert to the symptoms we don’t recognize or won’t admit we have. His language is like crystal: patterned, prismatic, sharp. The poet, clear-eyed and truthful even to himself, identifies our choices: ‘To go mad among the mad / or go it alone’; offers his treatment: ‘I sent up the part of me that was light’; conveys the results: ‘Sometimes people survive in spite of us.’”