Porochista Khakpour at Poetry Magazine:
There are many reasons Mala’ika’s work has largely evaded the West. It’s hard to pigeonhole her, for one thing, which is by her own design. Mala’ika was always a neither-here-nor-there kind of poet. She was an Easterner with a calculated reverence for the West, a bard of Occidental impulses in a time and place more accustomed to Orientalist ones. She went from being a student of English poetry to being a scholar of it while simultaneously establishing herself as a thoroughly Arab poet. She was also an innovator whose free verse remains accessible while still keeping within her larger cultural tradition. And her feminism specifically concerned the roles of Arab women without evincing a need to compare, or center, the lives of her Western counterparts, as many women poets in her generation and beyond were tempted to do. (Mala’ika, with little fanfare, studied at Princeton in the 1950s, when it was still an all-male university.) She was also, finally, of the modernist and postmodernist eras but is perhaps best classified as a Romantic poet, despite publishing nearly a century after that movement’s heyday. As Drumsta notes in her substantial introduction, all these facts have perplexed Mala’ika’s biographers and translators.
Today, more than a decade after Mala’ika’s death, we can still say, perhaps bittersweetly, that the reception of her work baffles many readers.