Textu (Paperback)

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"Joudah's poetry thrives on dramatic shifts in perspective, on continually challenging received notions."--The Guardian

Emerging in the era of tweets and text messages, poet Fady Joudah has invented a new poetic form: textu. The "u" in textu echoes the one in haiku, and also emphasizes the intimate you. A textu poem has a single rule: be exactly 160 characters long. As theme, form, and style are wide opened, a textu reveals new possibilities and poetry in unexpected ways.


Your spine a river into the forest
can't tell the neurons for the trees

I light & light
you up with sound profile

threading the image habit
of pleasure


When we learn how an infant in the womb
Sleeps precisely in a parent's pose

say with fist closed
pillowing the temple

What will become
of the poem

"A collection of poems that takes its form from the text message necessarily raises similar questions about attention, and attendant questions about empathy. Each poem in Fady Joudah's Textu was composed on a smart phone's text message screen, and is "exactly 160 characters long, specific to text message parameters." Aren't text messages the epitome of what we glance at in passing, and then just as quickly forget, in that often-described stream of information and stimulation?

This book is not a reductive critique of this stream, or what it is doing to us. Neither does the collection let its premise--the textu form--justify itself without inquiry, as though shaping a poem according to the strictures of a text message necessarily makes the poem interesting. Instead, the form feels central to these poems, and to what they are doing. Joudah has pointed out that for most people in the world who can't afford unlimited texting, exceeding the character count means incurring additional costs; the character is a unit of economic value. The constraint of character count in the book, then, is not only a new kind of meter. It is also a metonym for the ways in which our language and our relationships are constrained by the world in which we live: by taking their form from one born of late capitalism, the text message, what these poems implicitly suggest is that all of our communication--and all of our poems--are shaped by this system, whether we would prefer to hold our attention on this fact or not.

It is fitting, then, that even as Textu asks us to consider the context in which lyric poems are made, it draws on and locates itself within the lyric tradition. The textu form shares the lyric's feel of intimate address, the "u" in "textu" suggesting an interlocutor to whom the poems are addressed. And the poems in the collection take on, among other subjects, the conventionally lyric subjects of natural beauty, loss, and desire." --Margaree Little, Kenyon Review Online

Fady Joudah is a poet, translator, and emergency room physician. His first book, The Earth in the Attic, won the 2007 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. He lives near Houston, Texas.

About the Author

Fady Joudah: Fady Joudah is a poet, translator, and emergency room physician. His first book, The Earth in the Attic, won the 2007 Yale Series of Younger Poets. In 2010 he received a PEN translation award for his translations of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781556594762
ISBN-10: 1556594763
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication Date: December 23rd, 2014
Pages: 118
Language: English