This collection of poems speaks to an individual’s place and emotions during war. The wars depicted in this volume – the ‘history wars’, the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, ‘the war against terror’, ‘the clash of civilisations’, etc – form the background against which the speaker’s language seethes and writhes. These fractured lyrics – or ‘antiheroic couplets’ – take place in a volatile space in the aftermath of ancient conquests and prior to future atrocities. Here the medieval Persian poet Rumi is seen escaping the Mongolian hordes; Satan debates Archangel Michael at the battle of Heaven and Hell; the Jewish thinker Walter Benjamin contemplates the Holocaust; an imprisoned writer becomes a saviour and a revolutionary radical is branded traitor; an account of the author’s experiences of the Islamic Revolution of Iran and the war with Saddam Hussein is narrated; and contemporary Australia is seen as a nation engaged in an unremitting conflict against the land’s original inhabitants and its Asian neighbours. History and a desire for peace form the central discourse of this book’s poems that deconstruct the desire for war, undermine the beliefs in religious and cultural identity that often provoke wars, and advocate non-participation and a rejection of the glorification of ‘us’ and the demonisation of the ‘other’. Also included in this volume are love poems and translations from works of Sufi mystics to show that the opposite of war is, if not always allowed, then at the very least imaginable in these times of hostility and conflict.
‘Ali Alizadeh is a young poet struggling to make sense of a cruel and chaotic world. He strives for a language that can fuse reality and myth, youthful longings and ancient wisdom, the spiritual and the materialistic. He draws upon many influences, ranging from the poet’s Persian traditions, to poetic traditions both ancient and modern, East and West. Idealism and disillusion stalk side by side. Love duels with anger. The most moving poems document the author’s journey from Iran to Australia and his youthful quest for love. The result is a work-in-progress that lays bare the poet’s desperate struggle for inner peace and meaning in a world engaged in seemingly endless warring and demonisation’ —Arnold Zable
‘In our time which is, against all hopes, a century of war, when fundamentalist rhetoric has taken on new life in a cosmic phantasmagoria of destruction and hatred, Ali Alizadeh's fast-moving poetry holds us to today's issues of identity and culture, its dilemmas of allegiance and responsibility. The drama of humanity's complex heritage has no more relevant or urgent voice.’ —Judith Rodriguez
‘In its multiple rendering, you can read [eliXir: a story in poetry] as a play, then as a story, then experience it as a poem, at different points and very often simultaneously. Alizadeh does his tale with speed while sucking in our senses with a compelling simplicity that awes with admiration. The pace is varied and the style indicates a craft of narrative economy.’ —Patrick Mangeni
‘[Alizadeh’s] eliXir – like the fabled liquor sought by alchemists from which [it] takes its name – is a potent concoction … its after-effects are as powerful as they are thought provoking.’ —Roger Williams
‘A talent to watch.’ —Chris Mansell