WINNER OF THE 2013 BACKWATERS PRIZE
"We carry cities, instead of angels,
on our shoulders, we trail them
behind us like old hurts. "
"A series of 45 vignettes exploring life in Lebanon’s capital, it succeeds in evoking the city more powerfully than many full-length novels." —The Daily Star
"Zeina Hashem Beck's To Live in Autumn is honest and passionate. I also get the sense that no one but she could have written it. That's not only because so many of her poems turn on Beirut, a city Hashem Beck clearly knows in intimate detail, but also because her lines often emit, seemingly effortlessly, the lovely musk of Arabic spiced with French. That Hashem Beck, even when she's writing from a student's point of view, manages to avoid the obvious tropes makes things even more interesting. I thought- judging this contest- "This person is going to be an important writer." And I still think so. Read her book and you will too. "
—Lola Haskins, 2013 Backwaters Prize judge
"These are poems that come from somewhere deeper than the heart. They carry knowledge and an awareness of what it is to be human, to be a woman, to be raw with the constant anguish of a broken homeland. Yet, they are humane, they celebrate, they inhabit that place where love and joy co-mingle with pain, with the broken promises of generations. This is a voice ringing true and clear, its message is heard in the heart as well as the head. It is essential, honest, authentic. This is a voice that will be with us for a long time, growing ever stronger, touching us again and again, teaching us what it is to live in this hard, complex, beautiful world." —Frank Dullaghan, Irish Poet, Cinnamon Press
"In To Live in Autumn, Zeina Hashem Beck crafts a multifaceted portrait of the people and the streets of Beirut. Part love-letter, part elegy, Hashem Beck’s debut collection keeps the city from becoming “a shadow of a memory,/ the memory of a shadow” for poet and reader both, offering us instead “labyrinths/in which we get lost on purpose.” Stay a while, “watch the city unfold/ its colors again,” linger in “Modca/ the ancient coffee shop,” pass by “the deserted theater,” and listen at “the leftist pub” where someone is playing the oud and “his rough voice sinks/ through us like a rock.” This collection is as vibrant and sensitive as its subject—the city that “understands/ not being tired of being.” Join me in an enthusiastic welcome for a compelling new voice in Anglophone poetry."
—John Hennessy, author of Coney Island Pilgrims and editor of The Common
"If spring is to come, Beck is clear-eyed enough to admit, flowers grow from blood in "the streets instead of rain." Still, I can't help but be glad that "spring" is the word that closes the book: Beck's greatest gift is to show us that beauty and tenderness can never be completely destroyed." — New Orleans Review
To Live in Autumn was included on Split this Rock's list of recommended poetry books for 2014. It was also named a runner up for the Julie Suk Award and a category finalist in the 2015 Eric Hoffer Book Awards.