Philip Metres stakes a claim for the cultural work that poems can perform—from providing refuge to embodying resistance, from recovering silenced voices to building a more just world, in communities of solitude and solidarity. Gathering a decade of his writing on poetry, he widens our sense of poetry as a way of being in the world, proposing that poems can offer a permeability to marginalized voices and a shelter from the imperial noise and despair that can silence us. The Sound of Listening ranges between expansive surveys of the poetry of 9/11, Arab American poetry, documentary poetry, landscape poetry, installation poetry, and peace poetry; personal explorations of poets such as Adrienne Rich, Khalil Gibran, Lev Rubinstein, and Arseny Tarkovsky; and intimate dialogues with Randa Jarrar, Fady Joudah, and Micah Cavaleri, that illuminate Metres’s practice of listening in his 2015 work, Sand Opera.
"In his deeply engaging The Sound of Listening, Philip Metres, one of the essential poets of our time, demonstrates the critical acumen that has made his poetry so attuned to our zeitgeist. Metres's essays exhibit an exhilarating range, from avant-garde installation art to pop songs, from the highbrow aesthetics of Modernism to the primal joy of memorizing poems. Generous in its listening and committed to justice and beauty and to the beauty of justice, this is a wonderfully learned and instructive book."
—Khaled Mattawa, author of Tocqueville and MacArthur recipient
"This is the critical collection we need today, as we’ve needed it every day—one that points to a lineage of poetry political, committed, alive. To listen to these poets—Adrienne Rich, Muriel Rukeyser, Khaled Mattawa, Mohja Kahf, and on—through Metres is to hear a practice of compassion and righteousness that is exemplary. I leave reading these essays and conversations as I often leave reading Phil Metres’s astonishing work: emboldened and awake to the possibilities of poetry as communal, as documentary, as song, as refuge and, yes, resistance."
—Solmaz Sharif, author of LOOK (2016)
"In his essential new book, The Sound of Listening, Philip Metres explores a number of different orientations of the poet—poet as alternative historian, detective, philosopher, documentarian, shaman. Drawing on everyone from Karl Marx to Mos Def, Kahlil Gibran to Peter Gabriel, Enheduanna to Edward Said, Metres accomplishes that most difficult task: a book about poetry that actually captures its rich multiplicity, opening outward into a more rigorously, compassionately imagined poetic future."
—Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf (2017)