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Yahia Lababidi

Yahia Lababidi's forthcoming book, WHERE EPICS FAIL, was featured on PBS NewsHour and generously endorsed by Obama's inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, who wrote: "Aphorisms are an ancient form, but its current-day master is Yahia Lababidi." 'Epics' is to be published by Unbound (UK), in partnership with Penguin Random House and, currently, is available for pre-order, here:

Lababidi, Egyptian-American thinker/poet, is the author of 6 critically-acclaimed books and has been featured on NPR, Best American Poetry, World Literature Today, On Being with Krista Tippett, The Guardian and Al Jazeera, among many other places.

His New & Selected Poems, BALANCING ACTS (Press 53) is a celebration of more than twenty years of his poetry and, according to Chard deNiord, Poet Laureate of Vermont, 'resonates in plain-spoken yet dazzling poetry--sometimes epigrammatic, sometimes expansive--that betrays the eclectic transmissions of his myriad influences, from Rumi to Kierkegaard, Dickinson to Kafka.' Other books by Lababidi include, "Trial by Ink: From Nietzsche to Belly Dancing" a collection of literary and cultural essays. To date, Lababidi’s writing has been translated into nearly a dozen languages.

His work appears in several anthologies, including: Geary’s Guide to the World's Great Aphorists as well as the best-selling US college textbook, Literature: an Introduction to Reading and Writing (10th edition). Lababidi was chosen as a Juror for the 2012 Neustadt Prize (a biannual award widely considered the most prestigious international literary prize after the Nobel Prize in Literature).



  • I buried your face, someplace
    by the side of the new road
    so I would not trip over it
    every morning or on evening strolls

    still, I am helplessly drawn
    to the scene of this crime
    for fear of forgetting
    the sum of your splendor

    then there’s also the rain
    that loosens the soil
    to reveal a bewitching feature
    awash with emotion

    an eye, perhaps tender or
    a pale, becalmed cheek
    a mouth tight with reproach or
    lips pursed in a deathless smile

    other times you are inscrutable
    worse, is when I seem to lose you
    and pick at the earth like a scab
    frantic, and faithful, like a dog.

  • One restless dawn, unable to suppress the itch
    of wanderlust, with a heavy door left ajar
    semi-deliberately, and a new light teasing in

    Some piece of immobility will finally quit
    suddenly nimble on wooden limbs
    as fast as a horse, fleeing the stable.

Signposts to Elsewhere (2008)Edit

Excerpts (aphorisms):

  • A good listener is one who helps us overhear ourselves.
  • With enigmatic clarity, Life gives us a different answer each time we ask her the same question.
  • The thoughts we choose to act upon define us to others, the ones we do not define us to ourselves.
  • Temptation: seeds we are forbidden to water, that are showered with rain.
  • Impulses we attempt to strangle only develop stronger muscles.
  • Ambiguity: the bastard child of creativity and cowardice.
  • Truth can be like a large, bothersome fly – brush it away and it returns buzzing.
  • In life, as in love, graceful leave-taking is the epitome of gratitude.
  • Pleasure may be snatched from life’s clenched fists, not joy
  • Miracles are proud creatures; they will not reveal themselves to those who do not Believe.
  • To be treated with mercy, some must reveal their handicaps, while others must conceal them.
  • To hurry pain is to leave a classroom still in session.
  • To prolong pain is to miss the next lesson.
  • Like cars in an amusement park, our direction is often determined through collisions.
  • The personal made universal is art’s truth.
  • Take two opposites, connect the dots, and you have a straight line.
  • Romantic: one who professes to prefer the thorns to the rose.

"Where Epics Fail: Aphorisms on Art, Morality & Spirit" (2018)Edit

in The Elephant Journal, Nov 3, 2013
  • Aphorisms respect the wisdom of silence by disturbing it, but briefly.
  • To maintain immaculate speech, often times silence is required.
  • One definition of success might be refining our appetites, while deepening our hunger.
  • Hope is more patient than despair and so outlasts it.

External linksEdit

An Evening with Yahia Lababidi in Austin, Texas (video)