Al-Jishi’s poetry collection BLEEDING GULL: LOOK, FEEL, FLY is a spare, arresting volume of short poems generally focused on the interplay between human nature and Mother Nature. Typically ranging from three to ten short lines, the poems are tiny encapsulations of large emotions.
A Saudi Arabian poet, the acute visual and emotional descriptions focus on religion, parenthood, illness, the importance of home, being an outsider, and communing with nature. While some poems are interesting cultural glimpses into Saudi Arabian life, the universal nature of most of the writing will resonate with all readers. In the poem “Pendulum,” Al-Jishi writes:
I am a pendulum.
The flames burn my body
In the midday.
Then the ice revives me
In the night
To be suitable
For the morning death.”
And the ending to “Religion is Love”: “Red is another language, / And I can speak / No more.”
A few poems sparkle with crystalline metaphors and end with a punch in the gut, so that the reader is compelled to begin again and enjoy anew. But in between these gems are many more poems that just aren’t compelling. Imagery is repeated too often, the metaphors are cliché (“Distances are empty between us,” “Chaos lives inside us.”) Short poems can be powerful in their minimalism, but not all of Al-Jishi’s lines make an impact. Additionally, there is no singular theme tying the collection together and no arc from beginning to end, just repeated motifs, phrases, and imagery loosely holding the pieces together. This construction makes it easy to pick up the book and enjoy a poem or two at random, but the repetition becomes tedious if one is trying to read from start to finish.
Although BLEEDING GULL is not cohesive as a whole, Al-Jishi is a unique talent with some individually beautiful poems.