May 12, 2019

Amirah Al Wassif’s ‘For Those Who Don’t Know Chocolate’ | A Review

Poetry has taken a lot of forms, structure and meaning since the advent of the 21st century. It is not strange to see the incredible expressions through which contemporary poetry has come to be associated with. From the shores of Africa to Europe, Asia, Antarctica and of course America, it is the case that the manner in which poetry is appreciated has been doubled, even amidst literary critics. Amirah Al Wassif, a born poet from Egypt, has carved out a niche for her poetry collection, ‘for those who don’t know chocolate.’ It is my hope that this review of Wassif’s piece of art, would add to the numerous commendations, observations and encouragement –  not just for the poet, but for simple readers all over the world.

for those who don't know chocolate
for those who don’t know chocolate

Take a copy of Amirah’s book of poems, ‘for those who don’t know chocolate,’ and you’ll be sure to be welcomed by a yawning sense of imagery. She writes about “the people with half a soul/living in imaginary houses.” She also employs the poetic device called ‘alliteration’ in her poems (“for those who gather in the TORN TENTS around the world”), Rhymes as in “BLOOM of the flowers sky’s GLOOM,” and metaphors like “the smell of humanity,” “sun of tolerance,” “the crawlers of the earth,” and so on. Like sailors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, data analysts, and so on, the poet glorifies her luck to be a writer in her “so lucky.” She celebrates her struggles and likens them to “a fighter eating…worries” and “the opener of all locked doors.” In “love is a perfect poem,” we also see the use of imagery, personification, and rhymes like ‘chest,’ ‘rest,’ ‘best,’ ‘nest,’ ‘first,’ and ‘list.’ Similar rhyme structure was found in “a stranger,” with words such as ‘there,’ ‘fear,’ ‘stare,’ ‘affair,’ and ‘rare.’ “The motherland” followed a themed structure (quatrain with rhyming schemes abab with the first two stanzas and aabccbd).


One must wonder if the mind of the poet has truly traveled to places “before my death.” Places like sitting beside an innocent homeless girl, kissing the lilacs, laughing in a loud tone, tossing the most creative jokes, kissing the famine babies, praising the woman who works in breaking rocks, giving endless tickets to orphans, and sharing food with a lost dog. At the end, she submits to learning just how to live!

for those who don't know chocolate
for those who don’t know chocolate

One of her poems, “a woman looking for a tongue,” describes the irony seen every time and everywhere in the world, between women who are expected to be good, and silent women who act real – those who fly. This act of flying is neatly worded in her “courage woman,” the kind of energy that “bribes the Sun with her smile,” not to put many hearts in unending jeopardy, but to “dissolve the hot and murmured, amen.”


Amirah Al Wassif, dares to interrogate the ‘fun’ and ‘Sun’ in refugee camps – from Somali lands down to every land that have “details written with no ink.” Watered with emotions, the poet takes us all to reply like refugees waiting for dawn – “No Sun comes into a gun.” Wassif uses a rather uncommon poetic form in “an urgent call in the second life.” There is a description that one may be tempted to call apocalyptic, yet her words are that “it was a mix of waves and dancers and a creation of colourful birds…” This poem captures the ordinary waiting for eternity – the upper world.

for those who don't know chocolate
for those who don’t know chocolate

It is not out-of-place if the reader goes into an inquiry of Wassif’s “the poetry is.” It seems to be like a continuation of conversations somewhere. Everyone definitely has a question befuddling their minds with regards to what poetry is. But for Wassif, “the poetry is finding the details in eyes of another…[it] is more than the silence of beauty and the gossiping of people. I am particularly thrilled by Wassif’s “windows of Madrid.” It evoked some feelings of want, of fear, of desires, and of healing. This is what art does to us, isn’t it? It makes us spy at the stories we dare to write on a secret page. There is an outbreak, not of cholera or Ebola, not deadly and uncontrollable parasites or diseases – but of love. “I love you despite what everyone knows” is just that poem we all need to read to remind ourselves that “a confession of love accepts no delay.” Like all good poetry collections, Wassif ends with words that make us think of “when we meet with death!


 “Amirah Al Wassif is a freelance writer based in Egypt. Her prolific output includes general interest articles, novels, short stories, songs, and of course, poetry. Five of her books have been written in Arabic and much of her English work has appeared in a great many cultural magazines. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Kurdish, Hindi and Arabic.” This review was written by David Francis. Please check the link below to buy this amazing book of poems:


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