Adele Ne Jame teaches poetry at Hawaii Pacific University. She served for a year as the Poet-in-Residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has published four books of poems. Her honors include a Pablo Neruda prize for poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in Poetry, an Elliot Cades Award for Literature, and the 2016 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation Poetry Award. Her poems were exhibited as broadsides in the United Arab Emirates International Biennial 2009. Of the poems in her most recent collection, The South Wind, one reviewer noted that “her continuous awareness of the overlapping realms of life and death are what give her work its emotional heft.”
From “Two Poems”
From the Contributor Commentary
Although my Lebanese heritage has always influenced my writing, my more recent poems—narrative elegies that explore the effects of Lebanese diaspora—began in earnest when my daughter, Melissa, and I first traveled to Beirut in 2009 and when I made a second trip the following summer.
I had grown up hearing fragments of tragic stories my maternal grandmother, Adele, told me. One especially haunts me, the one of her mother’s death which occurred during a street fight in Beirut between Christians and Muslims. Her mother, Sadie, getting word of a neighborhood street fight, ran outside to find her teenage son. Adele, a child then, ran after her. When Sadie reached the crowd, she instantly saw a knife being hurled midair at her son. she stepped in front of it to shield him. She was fatally struck and bled to death on the spot. My grandmother, aged twelve, witnessed the whole thing. Though an old woman, she never got over her mother’s loss and wept every time she told the story.
My father’s parents and five siblings died as a result of the war in Lebanon. They were among tens of thousands who starved to death during WWI, when the Ottoman Empire sanctioned Mount Lebanon. My father never spoke a word of it. My mother cautioned us as children not to ask questions.