The Leaf of the Neem Tree

Jamal Mehmood


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Hajar Press
24 June 2021
ISBN: 9781914221019
126 pages

From the publisher

A meditative collection of poems and short stories, contemplating turbulence and repose.

Known for their bitter taste, neem leaves have been used for centuries in South Asian traditional medicine. In The Leaf of the Neem Tree, Jamal Mehmood unravels bitter truths that come with growing out of youth and confronting the concrete realities of our world.

Weaving free verse and ghazal, English with Urdu, the poems lead the reader through the author’s wandering mind, which moves from Gillingham to Kashmir; Ghassan Kanafani to Mansour Hallaj. We also peer into the worlds of a struggling graduate dealing with the harshness of life after university; a shipman who finds himself swimming to England; and a man who decided to leave England behind altogether.

Balancing movement with pause, this impeccable collection deals in the alchemy of introspection—the quietness of loss, longing, memory and spirituality.

‘What if writing drew a circle around us … whispered aloud, and said in our hearts, both at once—to clean the blood, yes. This is that, written in a vernacular for us as we sit in our cities, dreaming of burning palms.’ — Zarina Muhammad, The White Pube

‘Stirringly compassionate … somehow captures the sentiment of Urdu poetry in the context of British capitalism’s brutalising drudgery.’ — Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, author of Postcolonial Banter

‘A beautiful, intimate collection … Mehmood writes with soft grace and an unfaltering belief in divine benevolence, allowing us to clean the blood and imagine a better world.’ — Hussein Kesvani, author of Follow Me, Akhi

‘Willing to bear witness to the sacred in the everyday, Mehmood writes with unwavering humility of God, of grief, of grace.’ — Victoria Adukwei Bulley, author of Girl B