Dreamers' Songs: Nancy Bevilaqua's Poems

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Tag: Aramaic

Another Free eBook Week

Every so often I post here to announce that I’m making the Kindle version of my poetry collection, Gospel of the Throwaway Daughter, free for a few days. Now I’m doing it again. The book will be free for five days starting tomorrow, 22 January 2016 (the print version, which is, of course, always nicer, is $8.00).

You can read more about the book and about my work and publications as a poet on the Amazon page.

Here’s the link:

Gospel of the Throwaway Daughter



New Goodreads Review of Gospel of the Throwaway Daughter

This wonderful and thoughtful review of my new poetry collection, Gospel of the Throwaway Daughter, is from Philip Lee, and appeared on Goodreads:

This is a collection of mystical poems which might appeal to readers with an interest in the early Christian church, to lovers of conspiracy theories, or to anyone who delights in an arcane/’different’ view of the old, old story.

Maryam, the throwaway daughter of the collection’s title, is the lover of Esa – better known as Jesus, “the mirror of the [desert] lake”. Author Nancy Bevilaqua, who has done much research into Aramaic and ancient Greek names, comes up with the intriguing idea that Jesus is part oasis, part mirage. And it is Maryam, whom we might think of as Mary Magdalene, that after the crucifixion, is scorned by a woman-hating St Peter (here called Kefa), and makes her way to Epheseus. Other transformations include her brother, Lazaros (Lazarus), not being raised from the dead by Esa, but his “death [is revealed as] a turn of mind”. Also that Maryam has a daughter

Many of these pieces are difficult reading, but what’s exciting about them – apart from their skilful use of language – is the way the narrative builds up. After reading them once through, the pleasure will be to take them up again and see what more Ms Bevilaqua’s mystic imagination has made of the Apocrypha. She has both a remarkable feel for landscape and a scholar’s knowledge of the ancient Levantine. At times the verses are cruel and bloody,

“….Over our hill
nails are ripped from someone’s broken hands, lengths
of scarlet rope and snakes around his legs.”

at times visionary,

“There are other ways to reach me:

observe light’s ecstatic tricks
upon the landscape, note how stars
remove their shoes for you, that you know
what birds’ eyes mean, that you have already
recipes for music…”

Ms Bevilqua makes it clear in her introduction that these are not intended as religious poems. Indeed, I think it would be difficult to read them as such, not just for the way they challenge tenets of the Christian story, but because of their feminist/historicist perspective. As more documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls become available to lay readers, the “Gospel of the Throwaway Daughter” will take its place in a rounder vision of what really went on two thousand years ago.

Here’s a link to the book’s Goodreads page, where you can read additional reviews and go to Amazon if you’d like to buy it. (For the time being, Amazon has reduced the print edition even further than I had; it’s now only $4.60. The Kindle edition is $3.99, but I highly recommend the print version (if you buy the latter, you will also be able to get the ebook for free through the Kindle Matchbook deal.)


My Poem in Tupelo Quarterly (TQ5)

Finding out that my poem “I Dreamed a Young Man Coming Home” was a semi-finalist in the latest Tupelo Quarterly poetry contest, and that it would appear in TQ5, felt a little like the first time National Geographic Traveler accepted one of my travel stories. I LOVE the work they publish.

Kind of a strange story about this poem–reading it now, the poem (and the dream that inspired it) would SEEM to be about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. So many of the details seem to fit (the cigarettes, which made me think of the cigars/cigarillos he’d allegedly taken from the convenience store a little earlier; the railroad tracks–Ferguson’s claim to fame seems to be a railway depot there, and the shooting occurred a short distance from the tracks; the young man’s grandmother coming to find him; the fact that it took place in the outskirts of a larger city, etc.). But I had the dream about two weeks before the shooting occurred, and submitted the poem to Tupelo Quarterly the day before it happened.

During the dream, I heard the word “Yashin”, and assumed that it was the young man’s name. Subsequently, however, I learned that in Aramaic, at least, the word means “those who are desperate/without hope.” That seemed to fit as well.

Or maybe I’m over-thinking it. In any case, here’s the poem (read the others there, too!).


Hence the Name…

I published this (anonymously, for reasons that may become clear if you use the “Look Inside” feature and read the Introduction) a while back:

Taliyth Zimuwthiy*

Taliyth Zimuwthiy*

Belligerent and rich, belittled

little fool. Bird’s heart full

of crazy listening: crush of lies,

sacrifice, lambs bled,

fallen doves. Devil surging

for a jest, spilling niceties

inside her head, dogging her,

dogging, room to room at dawn: Fire

on their hill will give you

rest, absolve the air

of sacred stench. Turn your hand to it.

Let their olives spit in sand;

boil their bitter oranges.


Creaking in wrecked shoes

that bring you from the lower street,

slapping time against your chest to beat it

back, passer-by, newly wed with wine

still on your breath you startle

with your father at her shriek.


Shorn, surrendered,

kneeling in her silk on aged creases

of the earth, stoking stares

from all their sodden eyes she sings:

Be quick, be quick. It doesn’t hurt me,

doesn’t hurt. I will never cross this plain

again, and swallow all its dirt.


Everyone is dreaming

now, copse wavering in heat. A force:

you find yourself beholden, suddenly

complete. Kneeling too you write in sand:

New lesson—learn love, blind men. Subsiding

dream. They part. She rises, walks to you, and you

will not be alone again.


(*Roughly, “Release the girl” in Aramaic.)

(To hear the audio version, please see previous post.)

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