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The Palace of Forty Pillars

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Digital (deliver electronic) / ISBN-13: 9781472158444

Price: £10.99

ON SALE: 4th April 2024

Genre: Literature & Literary Studies / Poetry

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‘In this formally radical debut, Armen Davoudian shows how rhyme enacts longing for a homeland left behind; how meter sings to a lost beloved; and how a combination of the two can map a self – or idea of the self – relinquished so that a new life, and all the happiness it deserves, can take shape’ Paul Tran

‘Marks the arrival of a notable new voice . . . The Palace of Forty Pillars is a moving book as well as an elegant one; its central preoccupation with the theme of belonging speaks memorably to one of the most urgent questions of our time’ Andrew Motion

Wry, tender, and formally innovative, Armen Davoudian’s debut poetry collection, The Palace of Forty Pillars, tells the story of a self estranged from the world around him as a gay adolescent, an Armenian in Iran, and an immigrant in America. It is a story darkened by the long shadow of global tragedies – the Armenian genocide, war in the Middle East, the specter of homophobia. With masterful attention to rhyme and meter, these poems also carefully witness the most intimate encounters: the awkward distance between mother and son getting ready in the morning, the delicate balance of power between lovers, a tense exchange with the morality police in Iran.

In Isfahan, Iran, the eponymous palace has only twenty pillars – but, reflected in its courtyard pool, they become forty. This is the gamble of Davoudian’s magical, ruminative poems: to recreate, in art’s reflection, a home for the speaker, who is unable to return to it in life.

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Reviews

Armen Davoudian's The Palace of Forty Pillars heralds a new but already accomplished voice in American poetry, and indeed of an evolving America. Davoudian, born in Iran and Armenian by heritage, is a young master of the English language who brings to mind the high-culture wit of James Merrill and the affecting reticence of Elizabeth Bishop. Davoudian is also irrepressibly contemporary, as in 'Coming out of the Shower,' which shows him negotiating his identity as a gay man in a family whose traditions involve both deep affection and a knowing silence. The dazzling title poem, a sequence of twenty fresh and surprising sonnets, begins with the epigraph 'Isfahan is half the world.' Halving and doubling, image and reality, the worlds of a bookish child in Iran and of an adult American poet, are all handled with an ease that embraces ambiguity and complication. There are twenty quite perfect poems here, if we count the sequence of twenty sonnets as a single poem; there are word-games, and worlds within words, and clever rhymes. Yet we feel the poet has spoken to us heart to heart, with a naturalness we trust. Our experience of this first book is more than double: we know we'll return to read it again, and again and again
Mary Jo Salter, author of Zoom Rooms
In this formally radical debut, Armen Davoudian shows how rhyme enacts longing for a homeland left behind; how meter sings to a lost beloved; and how a combination of the two can map a self- or idea of the self - relinquished so that a new life, and all the happiness it deserves, can take shape
Paul Tran, author of All the Flowers Kneeling
Home and its opposites; love and loss; youth and age; innocence and knowledge; grief and celebration: Armen Davoudian's poems are built on a series of binaries. This makes for an unusually well-organised and intellectually satisfying collection, but what gives it a special distinction, and marks the arrival of a notable new voice, is the way these opposites are brought into a continual fresh contact with one another by various kinds of formal dexterity and emotional intensity. It means that The Palace of Forty Pillars is a moving book as well as an elegant one; its central preoccupation with the theme of belonging speaks memorably to one of the most urgent questions of our time
Andrew Motion, UK Poet Laureate 1999-2009