Water & Salt

The poems in Water & Salt travel across borders between cultures and languages, between the present and the living past. These poems alternately rage, laugh, celebrate and grieve, singing in the voices of people ravaged by cycles of war and news coverage and inviting the reader to see the human lives lived beyond the headlines.


“Aside from wheat, essential ingredients for making bread are water and salt. And in Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s luminous poems, she provides the necessary words to feed our humanity. The poems in Water & Salt are fearless and frank. They speak of a place where a phone call announces doom and where portraits find their frames. But always, despite the violence and war, in the music of Tuffaha’s poetry there is a clear summons, beckoning us to join in the feast of her language. These are poems that rise, surge, and stir us.—Oliver de La Paz

“Arab-American poet Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s poems are both mirror and zaatar, sharing a clear-eyed picture of our sometimes-brutal world—as in the acid clarity of her ‘Running Orders’ and also feeding us from the harvest of possibility: the song of zaatar simmering in its native oil rises up and time evaporates. Her auspicious debut Water & Salt, named after the primal ingredients for slaking our thirst and satisfying our tongues, carries with it the aching wisdom of immigrants and mothers, whose lives are fraught with departure and carved by longing. Yet she turns the ominous language of border control into the tender music of trochaic hexameter: You will need to state the reason for your visit, and encourages us travelers that the story is still being written and our fractures aren’t done setting.”—Philip Metres

A photograph of the remains of a destroyed house with a blue door still attached to it and script that reads Water & Salt by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha ( Author Website )

Publication Date: April 27, 2017

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

$17.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-029-2

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The Rumpus reviews WATER & SALT

The Rumpus conducted a stunning review of Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s WATER & SALT, her debut collection of moving and powerful poetry. “Tuffaha harnesses the legerdemain of lyric to link love […]

My San Antonio reviews WATER & SALT

Roberto Bonazzi of My San Antonio reviewed Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s WATER & SALT, saying “Tuffaha’s collection is an extraordinary debut.” Thanks, Roberto!

The Translator Poems of Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

"Her poetry is always translating something—experiences, cultures, memories—for someone else." Lena's skill with translation and her new collection of poetry WATER & SALT has been covered in SEATTLE WEEKLY! Read […]

Review of Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s WATER & SALT

"Tuffaha’s poems are required reading material for any Arab-American literature list, and for all Americans whose knowledge of the Middle East ends at what the media reports." Lena Khalaf Tuffaha's […]