The Twenty-Ninth Year

The Twenty-Ninth Year

By:  Hala Alyan

Wild, lyrical poems that examine the connections between physical and interior migration, from award-winning Palestinian American poet, novelist, and clinical psychologist Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses.

For Hala Alyan, twenty-nine is a year of transformation and upheaval, a year in which the past—memories of family members, old friends and past lovers, the heat of another land, another language, a different faith—winds itself around the present.

Hala’s ever-shifting, subversive verse sifts together and through different forms of forced displacement and the tolls they take on mind and body. Poems leap from war-torn cities in the Middle East, to an Oklahoma Olive Garden, a Brooklyn brownstone; from alcoholism to recovery; from a single woman to a wife. This collection summons breathtaking chaos, one that seeps into the bones of these odes, the shape of these elegies.

A vivid catalog of heartache, loneliness, love and joy, The Twenty-Ninth Year is an education in looking for home and self in the space between disparate identities.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328512727

  • ISBN-10: 132851272X

  • Pages: 80

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 01/29/2019

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Hala Alyan

Hala Alyan

HALA ALYAN is the author of the novel Salt Houses, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award and a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize, as well as the novel The Arsonists' City and four award-winning collections of poetry, most recently The Twenty-Ninth Year. Her work has been published by TheNew Yorker, the Academy of American Poets, Literary Hub, the New York Times Book Review, and Guernica. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, where she works as a clinical psychologist.  
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  • reviews

    A Rumpus Most Anticipated of 2019 Pick 


    "In poem after poem, there is raw emotion, straightforward storytelling, and unapologetic truth. The poems here read like scars...sometimes they are up-front and easily understood. Sometimes they show up sporting shattered lines or jump from one memory to the next, making you think of a bird that abruptly changes direction mid-flight after hearing a gunshot. That intimate feeling is hard to find, and Alyan offers it here in spades." –NPR 


    "Best exemplifies poetry’s hybridity...blends forms, tangles modes, travels through time and space and leaps from the intensely personal to the acerbically political...with scathing wit, fierce self-examination, and challenging syntax. Alyan takes great risks, drips her full, naked self onto the page, and inspires her readers to embrace and examine our gravest mistakes, for every part of ourselves is a piece of a complicated puzzle that we can’t — mustn’t — stop trying to solve."–Vulture, "4 Poetry Collections That Change the World" 


    "This is the stuff of life, the very essence of the poetic." –LitHub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2019" 


    "There exists, within her poems, the cacophony that pervades our most intimate of relationships, a glistering sheen covering even the most banal interactions. Her poems feel as familiar as the prayers we make up in our own minds, as we feverishly ask for that which we’re only just realizing that we want; they’re a quiet triumph, sacred and profane, and, most of all, grounded in humanity." –Nylon, "Best New Books" 


    "Alyan’s fourth book of poems arrives with the earnest ambition of a debut, but the care of a poet whose lines have earned their sentiment. Poems of sorrow and shame live next to verses of desire. The Twenty-Ninth Year bursts with lamentations, hopes, fears, and a weary but wide faith." –The Millions, "Must Read Poetry"

    "Searching...Alyan writes propulsively." –amNewYork, "5 New Standout Poetry Books?"

    "Alyan moves with grace and courage in her poems, especially in her bare descriptions of a battle with anorexia, the relationship between father and daughter, and the stark realizations she depicts of a young girl tugged between her family's past and a life of American fast food restaurants where she's told how she doesn't fit in. This is coming-of-age poetry from a voice that resists categorization." –Library Journal, starred review 


    “[A] truly stellar collection of poetry…. If the collection wants for anything, it’s that each poem offers only a glimpse or a moment, whereas the subject matter could sustain several more pages of vicious, gripping verse. Luckily, readers can dive into the rest of Alyan’s burgeoning oeuvre: another three books of poetry and a critically acclaimed novel, Salt Houses (2017).”—Booklist, starred review 


    "The past never truly dies in this searing fourth collection from Alyan (Salt Houses), it merely resurfaces in the form of battle scars and familial wounds. The Palestinian-American poet, novelist, and clinical psychologist weaves an ever-shifting narrative that chronicles the personal history that shapes and informs her present. The inheritance of displacement is pervasive, as Alyan describes, and her lines are prone to linger in the minds of readers just like the ghosts that haunt the work itself." –Publisher's Weekly, starred review 


    “Mapping a year of change, Hala Alyan uses wit, metaphor, and powerful imagery in this collection of deeply intimate and truth-telling poems. Her words brave through gender, love, marriage, family, and displacement. They unsettle the hyphen between Palestinian and American. These stunning poems endure the unendurable, illuminating both the powerlessness of pain and the relentless courage of love.  Listen for her lyrical heart: letters, prayers, and portraits. Listen for what overlooks and fires free.” 

    –Aja Monet, author of My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter 


    “Early in The Twenty-Ninth Year Hala Alyan asks, ‘See that eye? Ask it to love you.’ With this, she initiates us into one of the poet’s great questions—how do we, having sounded our murkiest most private psychic waters, still look on ourselves with compassion? How do we ask a sky, a god, a nation, a parent, or a lover to cherish us, knowing all they know about our myriad brilliant failings? ‘In the end, we remake love over and over’—this is the work. Alyan picks up the fragments of a broken past and reassembles them into a livable future made more dazzling for having known brokenness. This is poetry of the highest order.” 

    —Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf and Portrait of the Alcoholic 


    “Every twenty-nine years Saturn’s in the same position it was in when you were born, often leading to periods of wild flux, transition, and transformation. Hala Alyan’s new book renders in lyric form precisely this kind of reckoning. The Twenty-Ninth Year leaps through time and geography cataloging and archiving snapshots of heartbreak, political violence and resistance, addiction, lust, betrayal, migration, and marriage. Lines such as, ‘exile knows his bones are 206 instruments’ will convince any living reader to immediately go get them tattooed to their ribs. This book is a tongue kiss between the sacred & the profane. This book's essential reading for anyone with a pulse in their veins.”  

    —sam sax, author of Madness and Bury It  


    “It’s a kind of heaven, The Twenty-Ninth Year, and a kind of hell. When an ex-alcoholic, ex-anorexic breaks the piñata of self open, what falls to earth is mooncakes, sponge cake, lopsided cake, the prettiest cake, pommes frites, waffles, warm bread, donuts, donut peaches, plums, prickly pears, Seven persimmons, first carrot in snow, organic kale, a plate of lobster, a house whiskey on ice, cider, cocktails, wine, and a halo of spaghetti. The word love appears 51 times. Drunk on language, feasting on experience, the poet eats her words without regret, in search of safety, in search of who she’ll be next.” 

    —Jennifer Tseng, author of Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness and The Passion of Woo and Isolde 


    “Hala Alyan's The Twenty-Ninth Year dramatizes the long journey toward home in poems that vibrate with eros and suffering, with longing and despair. On the cusp of her thirtieth year, that modern marker of maturity, Alyan, like other courageous confessional poets, brings darkness to light: anorexia, alcoholism, addiction, self-loathing. Yet Alyan's is a poetry of radical hope: that we enter into our wounds in order to emerge from exile.” 

    —Philip Metres, author of Sand Opera and The Sound of Listening 


    "Hala Alyan’s The Twenty-Ninth Year has the hodgepodge beauty and intimacy of a Japanese court poet’s pillow book and dazzles like a passp...

  • excerpts


    I’m allergic to hair dye and silver. Of the worlds, 

    I love the Aztecs' most of all, the way they lit fires 

    in the gouged chests of men to keep the world spinning. 

    I’ve seen women eat cotton balls so they wouldn’t eat bread. 

    I will never be as beautiful as the night I danced in a garage, 

    anorexic, decked in black boots, black sweater, black jeans, 

    hip-hop music and a girl I didn’t know pulling my hips 

    to hers. Hunger is hunger. I got drunk one night 

    and argued with the Pacific. I was twenty. I broke 

    into the bodies of men like a cartoon burglar. I wasn’t twenty. 

    In the winter of those years I kept Christmas lights 

    strung around my bed and argued with the Italian landlady 

    who lived downstairs about turning the heat off, 

    and every night I wanted to drink but didn’t. 





    You tell me we must forgive the heat. Everyone is talking about the latest shooting. 


    The city shimmies its indigo rooftops. A soldier couldn’t forgive his daddy. A sheriff wanted to chalk the pavement. 


    In Aleppo a child white as a birthday cake, limp in her father’s fists. 600,000 dead. You must’ve added a zero by accident. 


                      I tug your pants to your ankles and make you speak God. 


    There are a hundred videos of the same moment shot from a hundred different angles. I watch every single one. 


                      I let her pull the white out of you. 


    The father looking the camera directly in the eye. Look, her name was. Who will catch him when his knees buckle. Look, the mortar grows on our houses like moss. 


    The exile knows his bones are 206 instruments. There is a song in each one. 


    I filmed the sky to show you the pale face that lives within it. See that eye? Ask it to love you. 




    The Female of the Species 

    They leave the country with gasping babies and suitcases 

    full of spices and cassettes. In airports, 


    they line themselves up like wine bottles. 

    The new city twinkles beneath an onion moon. 


    Birds mistake the pebbles of glass on the 

    black asphalt for bread crumbs. 

    If I drink, I tell stories about the women I know. 

    They break dinner plates. They marry impulsively. 


    When I was a child I watched my aunt throw a halo 

    of spaghetti at my mother. Now I’m older than they were. 

    In an old-new year, my cousin shouts ana bint Beirut 

    at the sleeping houses. She clatters up the stairs. 


    I never remember to tell her anything. Not the dream 

    where I can’t yell loud enough for her to stop running. 


    And the train comes. And the amar layers the stones 

    like lichen. How the best night of my life was the one 


    she danced with me in Paris, sharing a hostel bed, 

    and how sometimes you need one knife to carve another. 

    It’s raining in two cities at once. The Vendôme plaza 

    fills with water and the dream, the fountain, the moon 


    explodes open, so that Layal, Beirut’s last daughter, 

    can walk through the exit wound. 



    Dirty Girl 

    See, I knew I’d make my mama cry if I stole the earring, and so into my pocket it went. I asked America to give me 

    the barbecue. A slow dance with a cowboy. Pop goes the grenade. Pop goes the Brooklyn jukebox. Give me male hands, oleander white, hard, earnest, your husband in the back seat of his own car, my jeans shoved down, the toxic plant you named your child after, a freeway by the amusement park that jilted girls speed across, windows rolled down, screaming bad songs at the top of their lungs. 

    After the new world. Before the New one. The Peruvian numerologist told me I’d be trailed by sevens until the day I died. 


    Everything worth nicking needs an explanation: I slept with one man because the moon, I slept with the other because who cares, we’re expats, the black rhinos are dying, the subway pastors can’t make me tell the truth. Tonight 

                                        Z isn’t eating, and five states away 

                                                                            I’m pouring a whiskey 

    I won’t drink. 

    I count the green lights. Those blue-eyed flowers your father brought when I couldn’t leave my bedroom. The rooftop, the weather, the subway empties its fist of me, the red salt of my fear. A chalky seven stamped on the pale face of the sleeping pill. 

                                                          What I mean to say is 

    I’m divisible only by myself. 





Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328512727

  • ISBN-10: 132851272X

  • Pages: 80

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 01/29/2019

  • Carton Quantity: 1