This powerful anthology compiles contemporary poetry from Asian and Middle Eastern poets, as well as poets living in the diaspora. Co-editors Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal, and Ravi Shankar cull a remarkable 400 poets from 55 countries (as well as countless translators to render in English some forty original languages).
Conceived by the co-editors as a response to the troubled political and social climate after September 11, 2001, the anthology took six years to complete. Organized by broad section headers that encompass themes of childhood, identity, the avant-garde, politics/oppression, mystery, war, homeland, mortality, and eros, the anthology includes prose introductions for each section from its editors, lending a sense of transparency, voice, and personal context to the volume's curation.
Language For a New Century features poets such as Bei Dao, Mahmoud Darwish, Li-Young Lee, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Michael Ondaatje alongside a majority of poets who are likely unknown in the U.S., making the anthology an essential text for expanding a readership of contemporary world literature.
Yusef Komunyakaa praises the anthology as "marvelous" and historian Howard Zinn notes that "this rich collection of poetry...fills a huge gap in our cultural heritage."
From the foreword, Carolyn Forché writes:
Where else would we find poetry from a two-thousand-year-old Seal script, poetry written in the graphemic style of Sanskrit, as well as English versions of experimental poetry from the Marathi language? In these collisions, poetry for the twenty-first century begins.
Chang, Tina, Nathalie Handal, and Ravi Shankar. Language For a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (2008). W.W. Norton & Company.