exit signs on a seaside highway
Exit signs on a seaside highway contemplates fragmented territory set against the backdrop of an ongoing apocalypse. The poems both acknowledge the raw violence created by borders, while stubbornly searching for glimpses of a better world that lies within reach. With language that is confrontational but also hopeful, it invites us to liberate ourselves from structures that are far more fragile than we believe them to be.
Subverting patriotism and place, Exit signs on a seaside highway invites us to plunge into the painful depths borders create. Atallah wants to know why we’re
“in love with a place that chronically guts itself,” aware that there is “something delicious about [the] intensity” of that allegiance. Part ode, part obituary, part manual, Exit builds on its hard truths: “the scales are broken” and “history doesn’t repeat, patterns do.” But a tender reality continues to search for art in its healing. Atallah knows we can “easily weave an epic tale from the fragments left behind.” This is a stunning and necessary debut.
— Ghinwa Jawhari, author of BINT
A sensational debut collection. These poems brim with place: checkpoints, borderlands, untouched oceans, highways, airports, televised homelands. She captures both the exile’s longing and their rage, the paradox of returning to places you must inevitably leave again. This is the mark of a true memory-keeper, one who holds the echo of a place, a life, a history, for those who cannot. I stole dust, a promise, Atallah writes, a glance and carried them across lands. We, too, travel the lands through these luminous poems. It is an honest journey, one I’m grateful to Atallah for leading.
— Hala Alyan, author of The Arsonists’ City
Lara Atallah’s Exit signs on a seaside highway, from its unforgettable opening poem, is interested in conjuring many worlds: parallel universes where the sun is “a god gifting infinity,” a Parisian night wherein the speaker “kills many selves in cold blood,” a Beirut whose “dead walk amongst the living,” who “dances to an apocalypse dressed like spring.” Through a lyricism carrying multiverses of historical weight, we’re reminded that “life is what happens when you graze infinity.” Here are poems which flow through formal and imagistic registers in conversation with the likes of Etel Adnan and Dunya Mikhail. I am so grateful to be alive and writing at the same time as Lara Atallah. This book is a multiverse in every sense.
— George Abraham, author of Birthright
Lara Atallah is a New York-based artist and writer. Her practice is informed by her interest in the political nature of landscape, and its power to dictate and influence our perception of borders. Her work has been exhibited in the US and internationally, and is part of the Onassis Cultural Foundation's collection in Athens, The Met Museum, as well as the NYU Langone Art Collection. Her first book, Edge of Elysium, Vol.1 (2019) was published by Open Projects Press. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Artforum, Camera Austria, The Brooklyn Rail, 128Lit, Koukash Review, Bahr. She also publishes Blue Metropolis, a monthly newsletter on Substack.