Rain and Embers by Ali Nuri is one of the best poetry collections I have read in a while. His talent lifts each page and the words situated on it to tell a vivid story about identity, belonging and displacement as well as exploring love and what it’s like to live in our twenty-first century world. Rain and Embers reads as a lived experience.
To Be a Murmur begins the collection and sets the tone for the first half of Rain and Embers. Nuri became a refugee in 1991 when Saddam Hussein attacked his home city in Iraq. Nuri resurrects these painful memories and experiences yet still finds and conjures beauty with his words. The Mirage of a Forest in the Ruins is another poem which outlines how displacement feels – how lacking a sense of belonging throws you far out into the middle of a sea which doesn’t look like the sea. Followed shortly by poems like Dead Language, Nuri reveals his fears about what will become of his heritage.
From here, Nuri explores faith and its significance to us as well as the questions it raises time and time again; as we live in a world supposedly created by God’s love which has given a home to so much evil. The seamless link into poems about Nuri’s own identity is wonderful – Namesake explores one’s reflection and I couldn’t help but draw connections to the idea we are made in God’s image yet become so different, and wondering what this means, if it means anything at all.
Nuri looks even further inward as the collection begins to reach its denouement with incredible poems like Treachery Through Time and Necropolis of the Sun as he seeks meaning and answers in himself and the world around him.
Finally, Love and Loss are explored and it is my belief any poetry collection must include poems of this ilk. These feelings are so incredibly natural – human and animal – and one of my favourite things is to see how these emotions, written about for centuries, always find new voices. Poems like The Shape of Absence and Feelings excellently portray a sense of loss or distance whilst Ra and -Your Name celebrate a multi-faceted love. Nuri also explores these emotions within himself, with the Log poems reflecting an inner monologue seeking peace and purpose.
But what I appreciate the most about Nuri’s work is how he always acknowledges the existence of hope; despite all of the heartache and trauma.
“and a river of honey
will flow eternally” (Inner Beauty)