My Body Can House Two Hearts
MY BODY CAN HOUSE TWO HEARTS skips across the fragile boundaries of history, culture, relationships, and language. It explores the transitory balance of belonging by tying threads between different places and ideas not often compared. Traverse the poet's perception of her Welsh and Iraqi heritage, her positioning as a woman of colour, and the nuances of feminist action. My Body Can House Two Hearts is a celebration of women's redemptive interdependency and the rejection of patriarchal power.
As the opening poem reveals, Hanan Issa has a vantage point that enables her to see both near and far. It lets her draw the links between Hen Wlad fy Nhadau and Baghdad, Fallujah and Aberfan. Reading on from these first lines we hear how the Cymraeg and Arabic ‘ch’ chime together, and see how Edwards is Daqneesh’s brother, and how one body can house two hearts.
This unique collection shows that Welsh, Arabic and English flow side by side and sometimes share the same waters. It contains verses that bring flamenco, ballet and bhangra to a common dance floor. It reminds us that ‘love’s a lake and the world is thirsty’.
Hanan Issa is rare talent in the poetry world, deftly balancing important storytelling with intricate and powerful poetry. Expertly re-working our sense of the world in her intimate poems, that are entrenched in history and myth. Her work so personal, deeply resonates with the reader. On putting her collection down, I feel as though I have woken from a dream. It is the kind of work I wish I had written.
“Kan yawma kan there was a woman of neither here nor there” writes Hanan Issa in her debut pamphlet ‘My Body Can House Two Hearts’. Her searching, moving poems exist in a space between Wales and Iraq, between English and Arabic, telling and retelling in her “patchwork tongue”. Her work asks, What histories remain untold? and How will I choose to re-invent my stories? She looks closely at the female body and the body politic, weaving the personal and the political, insisting on complicating the narrative and on finding beauty. The final poem, in which she watches her son eat strawberries, ends with “wallahi I want to stay here.” Consider what “here” Hanan creates.
Zeina Hashem Beck