Praise for Set to Music a Wildfire
"In her lovely debut, Set to Music a Wildfire, Ruth Awad rebuilds the image of a broken country and sutures the memory of a shattered family with words that can’t stop singing. A powerful homage to her father, who survived the Lebanese Civil War and emigrated to the United States and married her mother, these poems tell the story of the exile and all he left behind. 'I carry these suitcases full of rain,' she writes, in her father’s voice, 'because I can’t take my country.' These poems are alive as the keen-song of the griever and the clear-eyed and patient gaze of the children of the children of war. She writes: 'When someone dies in Tripoli, we write their name on paper / next to their pictures and post them where others can see. / Walk the street where the names wave from the walls, / flutter from windows, buildings gilled with sheets. / breathing paper, beating paper, the streets are paper.' In Awad’s paper streets, we can see the names and breathe." —Philip Metres
"The story Ruth Awad tells in this gorgeous debut collection is one of history and memory, displacement and estrangement, and perhaps above all, imagination and empathy. It’s the story not only of the Lebanese Civil War—the sky 'unzipping,' the 'whistling bombs you couldn’t see coming…the beehive rounds, whirring metal wings,' the 'woman with half-singed hair…her breath like a sizzled wick'—but also of a family in America and the struggles that continued here. Awad approaches the story—of a country, a man, a family—as if excavating priceless artifacts and holding them up to the light. You will want to lean in close to see them, in all their rich, chilling, and tender detail." —Maggie Smith
"Ruth Awad writes in a hard, classical style. Whether she is writing about her father's violent childhood in Lebanon or his American wife and their thee daughters, she is naturally dark. I admire her honesty and emotionalism as she transforms, with language, chaos into art."
"These poems and the people who inhabit them, 'born from the mouth of a bullet hole,' carry a darkness impossible to outrun, the darkness of war, specifically the Lebanese Civil War of the 70s and 80s. For Ruth Awad, the inheritance of such grief remains immeasurable as it fuels 'our bodies, // their infinite capacity for ruin.' Both immigration narrative and meditative lyric on identity politics—'When will you learn my name?'—Set to Music a Wildfire is disturbingly memorable in its intimate and articulate confrontations."
ANTI-: “Love like Sampson’s Lion While My Mother Shaves My Father’s Head”
BOAAT Journal (forthcoming): “Bassam”
Connotation Press: An Online Artifact: “I'd Always Told You Your Father Was the Most Beautiful Man in the World,” “Flotsam,” “Inventory of Things Left Behind,” “On the Night You Ask for a Divorce,” “Phillumeny after the Separation,” and “The Hypothetical Return”
Copper Nickel: “Kata Doksa,” winner of the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest judged by Kevin Prufer and nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prize
Crab Orchard Review: “Homegrown”
Day One: “Interview with My Father: Maps”
Drunken Boat: “My Father in Virginia, Surrounded by Water”
Epiphany: “Interview with My Father: Names”
Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal: “Chimera”
The Missouri Review Poem of the Week: “Surat al-Qiyamah: My Father Talks to God When Syria Occupies Tripoli, 1976”
Nashville Review: “The Lights Shut Off in the City of Ghosts”
New Republic: “Karantina Massacre”
Nightjar Review: “My Father Keeps the Pack Together”
One: “Nocturne with Teeth”
Pittsburgh Poetry Review: “After” and “On the Unexploded Cluster Bombs in Southern Lebanon,” which was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize
RHINO Poetry: “Winter Prayer”
Sixth Finch: “My Father Is the Sea, the Field, the Stone”
THEthe Poetry Blog: “Lessons in Grief”
The Hundred Years' War: Modern War Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2014): “Interviews with My Father: Those Times”
New Poetry from the Midwest 2014 (New American Press, 2015): “Love Like Samson's Lion While My Mother Shaves My Father's Head,” winner of the Heartland Poetry Prize judged by Lee Ann Roripaugh
Poets on Growth (Math Paper Press, 2015): “Love Like Samson's Lion While My Mother Shaves My Father's Head,” “Sabra and Shatila Massacre,” “A Mother’s Love Has Windows,” “Surat al-Qiyamah: My Father Talks to God When Syria Occupies Tripoli, 1976,” and “My Father In Virginia, Surrounded By Water”
Bettering American Poetry 2016 (forthcoming): “My Father Is the Sea, the Field, the Stone”
Sweet: A Literary Confection: "In the Skin"
Agape Editions Blog, August 2016: "What You Love Will Haunt You: A Review of Amie Whittemore’s Glass Harvest"
Agape Editions Blog, May 2016: "The Light Isn’t Coming Back: A Review of At Night by Lisa Ciccarello"
Cider Press Review, April 2016: "The Only Way Is Forward: A Review of The Cartographer's Ink by Okla Elliott"