THE LAND BETWEEN TWO RIVERS: WRITING IN AN AGE OF REFUGEES
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In this book of essays on the refugee crisis, Tom Sleigh recounts his experiences inside militarized war zones and refugee camps, demonstrating how writing explores the complexities of human experiences during this time while honoring the political emotions. He captures the nature of relationships while meditating on youth, restlessness, and illness.
“Sleigh is a deliberate traveler in the troubled world. . . . In Sleigh’s hands these moments of ongoingness mix something of the daily with something of the miraculous. . . . Like Whitman, Sleigh here plays with what the observer’s notebook can become. He embeds lines of poetry in journalistic essays like a rogue reporter; he’ll forge a sonnet or rhymed tercets out of reported language. . . . Sleigh’s cross-pollinating forms remind us that language, too, is always being deployed to some purpose.”
The National, Abu Dhabi
Book review: 'The Land between Two Rivers' painfully conveys the human cost of war
Tom Sleigh has devoted the best part of his career to poetry, both writing it and writing about it. However, after Interview with a Ghost (2006), a collection of essays which blended poetry and autobiography, the New York-based writer veered off and branched out, swapping distillations and examinations of poetic thought for long-form journalism centring on refugee issues.
This is Sleigh as journalist, with a stunning exegesis on our current wars. I’m soft, however, on his essays about childhood and, another about a friendship with Seamus Heaney, but as the teens like to say, “It’s all good.”
“Sleigh’s prose — often about the ugliest things in life, war and rape and murder, and neglect for those suffering rape and murder — is beautiful and sensitive. His writing is simultaneously insightful, stuffed with facts, and beautiful at the line level. . . . His reporting is lively and intellectually engaging in a way that is too often missing from ‘traditional’ journalism. We need more writing from poets like Sleigh, particularly writing about criminally underserved topics like the plight of refugees.”
"Sleigh (Station Zed), a poet who teaches at Hunter College, takes the title of this beautiful collection from his essay about teaching poetry at universities in Iraq, but his theme is the transformational nature of poetry. His stories from these war-torn places are sharply observed and humane . . . . But these stories are only one part of his project, which is to articulate how it is that poetry can capture what Seamus Heaney calls 'the music of what happens,' the essence of direct lived experience."
Agent: Lane Zachary, Aevitas Creative Management NYC. (Feb.)
"With self-deprecation and empathetic humor, these essays recount Sleigh’s experiences during several tours in Africa and in the Middle Eastern region once called Mesopotamia, 'the land between two rivers.' . . . .Under the conditions of military occupation, famine, and war, their stories can be harrowing, even desperate, but they’re also laced with wily humor and an undeluded hopefulness, their lives having little to do with their depictions in mass media. . . . Concluding with a beautiful remembrance of Sleigh’s friendship with Seamus Heaney, the final essays meditate on youth, restlessness, illness, and Sleigh’s motivations for writing his own experiences in order to move out into the world."
"With an empathetic humor the writer-journalist, Tom Sleigh would take you to the land where refugees live through his book titled, 'The Land between Two Rivers: Writing in an Age of Refugees.' Places like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, and Iraq form the backdrop of the book.
Harrowing, desperate condition of families staying in refugee camps would, at times, disturb you but the witty humor added by the writer would definitely take you through the book."
"Tom Sleigh is a poet and essayist who has worked as a journalist in war zones and refugee camps. Here, he describes his experiences on several tours in Africa and the Middle East. The essays describe the lives of refugees and explore how writing can address their experiences. This is a book that can help us think through the refugee experience and how art can help us understand and address it."
By Jane Ciabattari
31 January 2018
"Sleigh, a poet and a journalist who has reported from Africa and the Middle East (the region once called Mesopotamia or “the land between two rivers”), offers essays with rare insight. . . . He writes of Syria, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, and concludes with a remarkable appreciation of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, his poet friend, who, through the Troubles in Northern Ireland, became 'finely tuned' to impending violence."
Review Issue Date: November 15, 2017
Online Publish Date: October 30, 2017
“Wry and sharply observed, Sleigh's book bears witness to injustice as it engages in a compelling, humane quest for artistic truth. Provocative and eye-opening work from a dedicated artist.”
September 15, 2017
"What happens when a leading poet puts on a flak jacket to work as a journalist inside militarized war zones and refugee camps throughout Africa and the Middle East (specifically the area once called Mesopotamia, 'the land between two rivers')? You get this book, which reports on the displaced of Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and more as they struggle under awful conditions yet remain hopeful, even humorous."