‘You meet your brother. He is a stranger.’ And he asks: what can the forms of poetry do? What wounds are inflicted, spaces guarded by the sonnet’s chain rhymes, the concrete poem? Is the poem a wall or a door? What mirror can it hold up to magistrates and snipers, or prisoners and ghosts?
These questions do not have easy answers, least of all in Aida camp, where Steve Willey records some aspects of the living and world-making that is still possible in Palestine. That poems, even ones as careful and alert and resourceful as these, cannot answer such questions is—as Willey knows—the least of it. All the same, his poems keep watch, from Whitechapel to Qalandia. And watching is useless and wrong but it is still a form that love, and poems, can take in this violated world. ‘fold it back into the form that is your / love— / & feel the fragility— / … & incrementally sharpen, blacken the / page—’ like a rubbed-out space, a stolen country, or a sky prepared for stars.