By: Dr. John Asfour
In her deeply meditative new collection I am Here, I am There Leila Gorguis struggles with her duel belonging between Canada and Lebanon. While immigrants who have travelled and use their creativity to illustrate their anguish and their longing, Gorguis presents a vital and fresh perspective on being in a new country with new set of difficulties. Although her poems struggle with a broken love and a broken country, her exquisite portrayal of her femininity asserts and challenges the conventional roles:
“I am a woman
and every woman is a mother in the garment of a god
Fate does not suffocate me,
the rain does not drown me
and nothing but laurels crown my forehead”.
Her details are precise and original; her images are fresh and captivating. Her personal accounts convey a story of loss and exile. The poems in I am Here, I am There are rooted in the Lebanese tragedy of a war that lasted fifteen years and the fragmentation of the Lebanese society. Gorguis does not only deal with living outside her homeland but also of the condition caused by such physical absence. Aiming to reach a state of reconciliation rather than conflict, her poetic voice reflects a sense of nostalgia and emotional attachment towards her native Lebanon. She deals with her adoptive country with the same passion and the same vigor. She is a woman, a beautiful mistress, a beloved, a wife and a mother, her metaphorical device which manipulates feminine personifications is integral to her poetic talent.
She creates a meaning out of a disintegrated world based on betrayal, treason and illusions. She articulates her feelings of exile in poems and criticizes the lover and the country and attack the passive attitudes of what happens every day to women like her. She is not afraid to describe her suffering with dignity and not afraid to make the ultimate decision. One is particularly taken with the rare sensuality of her poetry as the longing meets the having and the forcefulness of the images is not mistaken:
“I am bored of sculpturing on water,
on mercury and in the air.
The gallantry in my head has burst open,
I want to abort all my bumps
And want to suffocate what is void till it explodes. »
In the end, she wants the dawn to ignite in Scheherazade’s narration
and In the imprint of the sun
on the faces of children in her country.
I am here, I am There is a moving collection of poems and Leila Gorguis voice is unique and readily accessible.
- * John Asfour is the author of five volumes of poetry in English, the most recent of which, Blindfold, (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011) concerns his experience being blinded by a grenade in his native Lebanon at the age of 13. Three of his books have been translated into Arabic and one to French. He is the editor and translator of the landmark anthology, When the Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry (Cormorant Books, 1988, 1992, Maxville, Canada) and American University 1992, Cairo, Egypt as well as the University of Ankara 1994 which was short listed for the Canadian League of Poets Award. He co-authored with Alison Burch a volume of selected poems by Muhammad al-Maghut entitled Joy is Not My Profession, (Vehicule Press, 1994, Montreal Canada), shortlisted for the John Glasgow award, and his third book of poetry, One Fish from the Rooftop, (Cormorant Press, 1992, Maxville, Canada) was the recipient of the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize. His fourth book, Fields of My Blood, (Empyrial Press, 1997, Montreal Canada) received the Canada Council for the Arts Joseph Staufford award. He is a former professor of literature residing in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Asfour has published two more books in the last few months: Vancouver V6A: an anthology of Writings from the Downtown Eastside, Arsenal Pulp Press2012 Vancouver , Canada and Metamorphosis of Ishtar by Nadine Ltaif, translated from the French (2011 Guernica Editions, Toronto, Canada).