Ghayath Almadhoun

Translated by Catherine Cobham

November 15, 2017
ISBN 9780900575976

Here is Adrenalin, Syrian-born, Stockholm-based Palestinian poet Ghayath Almadhoun’s first collection to be published in English. This sinuous translation by Catherine Cobham comprises poems that span years and continents, that circulate between cities, ideas, lovers, places of refuge, war zones, time zones, histories. Here is a vital, relentless, intertextual voice that refuses arrest by sentimentality, that pursues the poetry coursing underneath the poetry.

Praise for Ghayath Almadhoun

“This is political poetry at full force. This is what political poetry must look like if it is going to be serious. We cannot be satisfied by less complex texts–they are so hopelessly infantilizing. In this crucial political poetry, war’s contradictions and suffering are portrayed in endless nuances. This is our wake-up call.”

— Aase Berg, Dagens Nyheter (Sweden)

“Many poets attempt to traverse the gulf between the experience of tragedy and the ability to relay its magnitude to anyone else. But few living have done it with such flourish, such sustained passion and formal precision as Ghayath Almadhoun in Adrenalin. The poet emerges from Palestine, “a country famous for its wars,” and aims to braid that nation’s history and present with his own singular unprecedented experience. Even amidst the cannons and “shrapnel butterflies,” Alhmadhoun keeps a keen eye toward wonder—performing ablutions in wine before touching a beloved, eating ice cream in winter. Still, this searing collection orbits war, the consequences of war on a person and on a people. In Almadhoun we find an urgent, necessary voice, “the only survivor of this glorious massacre, the witness who arrived late, calmly observing the tombstones.”

— Kaveh Akbar (U.S.)

“Almadhoun’s poetry offers passion without comfort. It’s impassioned to its deepest lexical and syntactic fibres. Nothing is put into perspective, except for individual existence. Many voices sound through the poet’s, after all, especially those of the dead.”

— Erwin Jans in Poëziekrant (Belgium)

“The work of a poète maudit.”

— Asmaa Azaizeh, As-Safir (Lebanon)

“Almadhoun caught me with his first lines, ‘Massacre is a dead metaphor that is eating my friends …’ and ‘Do you know why people die when they are pierced by a bullet?’ and ‘We, who are strewn about in fragments, whose flesh flies through the air like raindrops …’ These lines are right.”

— Jenny Holzer (U.S.)


Ghayath Almadhoun is a Palestinian poet who was born in a refugee camp in Damascus in 1979. He studied Arabic literature at the University of Damascus and has worked as a cultural journalist for several Arab-language newspapers. In 2006 he founded Bayt al-Qasid, “The House of Poetry,” together with the Syrian poet Lukman Derky in Damascus. He has published four collections of poetry in Arabic and his work has been translated into many languages, including two collections in Swedish: Asylansökan (Ersatz, 2010) which was awarded the Klas de Vylders stipendiefond for immigrant writers, and Till Damaskus (Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2014) a collaboration with the Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg, which was included in Dagens Nyheter’s list of Best Books of 2014 and adapted as a play for Swedish National Radio. With Silkeberg, Almadhoun has also made several poetry films which can be viewed at Moving Poems. A series of poems by Almadhoun were projected as part of For Aarhus, a new installation by Jenny Holzer. Almadhoun has lived in Stockholm since 2008.


Catherine Cobham is head of the department of Arabic and Persian at the University of St Andrews and has translated the works of many Arab writers, including Naguib Mahfouz, Mahmoud Darwish, Fuad al-Takarli, Yusuf Idris and Hanan al-Shaykh.