Self-Portrait as Ruth

Self-Portrait as Ruth

The conflicting, parallel lives and narratives of Israel and Palestine form the core of Jasmine Donahaye's second volume of poetry.  Drawing on her own experiences as a Jewish woman, now Welsh-speaking, whose life has encompassed England, Israel, the USA and Wales, she dissects inherited histories and moral certainties almost forensically, with the unsparing poetic eye of both insider and outsider.  Focusing on human traits that respect no frontiers — thirst, sexual passion, fear — she glimpses hope in a smile or sign of kindness between assumed enemies, and beauty even in the careful gleaning of body-parts after an explosion.  Loss, regret and above all questions of personal and national guilt run through these poems, each striking image bearing some aspect of the history, myths or present reality, where political and geographical borders constantly and unavoidably intrude into private lives.

Provocatively, Donahaye communicates these themes in often disturbing, erotic terms, not only in classic male-female polarities of attraction and hostility, but also in the ancient trope of the land as a woman's body, fertile but mapped with the scars of the region's painful history.  The voice in these brave, passionate poems is unmistakably female, and, like the Biblical Ruth, here transposed to a Welsh wheatfield, knows the exile's yearning for the always-unattainable homeland.

Reviews

  • 'Jasmine Donahaye’s existential quest takes many routes that lead to arresting poems, the best of which catch you by the throat.'

    Dannie Abse

  • 'This book, wrestling with the conflicting perspectives of nationality, displacement and religion, is steeped in Israeli and Palestinian history. Land is portrayed throughout as an untrustworthy burden, full of temporary demarcations, constantly under threat of change.'

    The Guardian

Jasmine Donahaye

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Publication details:

Self-Portrait as Ruth
Salt Publishing Ltd (2010)

64pp

Translation rights:

Chris Hamilton-Emery
Salt, 14a High Street
Fulbourn, Cambridge
CB21 5DH, UK

chris@saltpublishing.com

T +44 (0)1223 882220