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Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth review Ruth Padel's new collection tackles the Middle East

Musical instruments of east and west appear in the search for common ground in Ruth Padel's accomplished new collection

"Making is our defence against the dark," is the last line of Ruth Padel's new collection, but it could almost be the first and stand as a statement of intent. These pieces are steeped in the Middle East and in Judaism, Christianity and Islam the three Abrahamic faiths and there are points where one feels Padel is a poetic Daniel Barenboim, determined to find common ground and to arrive, without any disfiguring political or theological agenda, at some approximation of Middle Eastern harmony. The collection includes more than one poem describing a musical instrument, including the oud itself. The opening poem, Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth, goes into sensual detail about the making of the instrument and is, in a sense, a mini-creation story:

The third day he made a nut of sandalwood,
and a pick-guard of black cherry.
He damascened a rose of horn with arabesques
as lustrous as under-leaves of olive beside the sea.
I have found him whom my soul loves

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