Good Arabs, The

By Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch

Good Arabs, The
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Swinging from post-explosion Beirut to a Parc-Extension balcony in summer, the verse and prose poems in The Good Arabs ground the reader in place, language, and the body. Peeling and rinsing radishes. Dancing as a pre-teen to Nancy Ajram. Being drenched in stares on the city ... Read more


Swinging from post-explosion Beirut to a Parc-Extension balcony in summer, the verse and prose poems in The Good Arabs ground the reader in place, language, and the body. Peeling and rinsing radishes. Dancing as a pre-teen to Nancy Ajram. Being drenched in stares on the city bus. The collection is an interlocking and rich offering of the speaker's communities, geographical surroundings both expansive and precise, and family both biological and chosen.

The Good Arabs gifts the reader with insight into cycles and repetition in ourselves and our broken nations. This genre-defying collection maps Arab and trans identity through the immensity of experience felt in one body, the sorrow of citizens let down by their countries, and the garbage crisis in Lebanon. Ultimately, it shows how we might love amid dismay, adore the pungent and the ugly, and exist in our multiplicity across spaces.

Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch

The Best Canadian Poetry 2018 anthology, GUTS, CarteBlanche, the Shade Journal, The New Quarterly, Arc Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere. Theywere longlisted for the CBC poetry prize in 2019. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter@theonlyelitareq. Their book knot body was published by Metatron Press in September 2020. The Good Arabs is their second poetry collection.


Nancy Ajram made me gay

Could be a woman. Could be a man. Could be someone floating
in between, or somewhere else, someone in a different country
on a different plain, different part of earth's tectonic plates
a space right in between two of them, two men sharing a bed
but no one knows, a shattering
earthquakes so normal we all know the drill
know to keep the good plates strapped in
know that sometimes you wake up to shaking
you wake up to floating
those minutes in between sleep and the shake, endless
until they're not. You're up
and out of the apartment
your pants still hang between your legs. Pull them up
running down the stairs, hoping
no one sees
but someone always does

Could be a woman, could be a man, you never know
with this language, never know
when Arabic holds an inherent femininity between Her lips
between the short Is and the breathy As
men's mouths filled with feminized verbs
thrown around like hot pita
the air between, the bread swelling, held at the end
of fingertips, hot, crisp, and swollen. Cousins, aunts, uncles yelling
one end of this long table
to the other, voices mingling in one loud white noise
passing plates back and forth, throwing balls of hot pita
bottles of birra

Pre-gender still sunk deep into Her language
into hugs, kisses between men
the woman's hand resting on another woman's cheek
leaning deeply, looking gently
the moon's wink haunts vast desert nights
the glimmer of the sand sparkling in the light cast
nomadic peoples moving, moving, moving
tectonic plates jerking

I release my femininity in Arabic
move with a body unseen in English
like every time Nancy Ajram comes on, I get up
wriggle my hips and summon my pre-teen body
writhing to the sounds of the oud
my eyes closing as Nancy's voice guides me
into the crowd of my family
pulling my cousins in to dance
raising my arms, twisting my hips
and emulating Nancy belly dancing in her music video
a shake of the hip for every Akhasmak Ah
hand twist Ah
hip shake Ah
hip shake Asibak Lah


  • Arab American Book Award (Poetry) 2022, Commended


"These poems are about the poet's multiplicity of identity, trans and Arab, from Beirut to Montreal. " - The Globe and Mail, "The Globe 100: The books we loved in 2021"

"Everything about The Good Arabs is open-ended, curious, trying. El Bechelany-Lynch constructs a freeing poetic atmosphere, in which central concerns regarding spaces, family, tragedy, inheritance, and gender are swelling in the heat of each room. " - Montreal Review of Books

"The Good Arabs is a collection of both verse and prose poems that explores place and belonging. The poems take readers from post-explosion Beirut to Montreal in the summer and reflect on communities, identity and families both biological and chosen. " - CBC Books, "45 Canadian poetry collections to watch for in fall 2021"

"Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch's exceptional The Good Arabs is an invitation to consider the 'cost' of living one's truth and what it might mean to remember what has always been known. Their work holds an intimacy as if we are overhearing a phone conversation or the author speaking on a balcony above us. 'Noises impossible in English' come through here, wrought in a mind attuned to tenderness and present conflicts. This is a bold and deeply necessary work. I am better for having read it. " - Liz Howard, author of Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent

"Eli Tareq El-Bechelany Lynch's The Good Arabs is a map of what it means to be queer, to be trans, to be Arab: from the hope of revolution to the Lebanese garbage crisis, of whiteness and its weight, of public space and private space and of eating pumpkin seeds on a summer balcony when the power is out. Even at its heaviest, this is a collection that insists on joy and on embodiment, reminding us that resistance can look like shaking one's hips to Nancy Ajram, too. " - Zeyn Joukhadar, author of The Thirty Names of Night

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