Yahia Lababidi

Fort Lauderdale


Yahia Lababidi

Yahia Lababidi with semi-wild pet pigeon. Photo by Diana Restrepo

I've been lavishly gifted a pain
as thick and rich as oil paint
By pushing it round the page
I've learned to make Art

Such is my breathlessly intense understanding of literature, since I was a restless teenager, looking to escape my self and circumstances. I read to get drunk and, to paraphrase Baudelaire, hoped to stay that way. A clutch of slim volumes altered my intellectual/spiritual landscape and, at the risk of melodrama, saved my life! Past the intoxicating, aesthetic experience, early on in my life books knew me before I knew myself and confessed my secrets—speaking the yearnings of my still-inchoate soul far more eloquently than I could ever dream at that tender age. Sensing my desperation and need, I believed they opened themselves up, presenting me with a world more real and alive than any other I inhabited.

Somewhere along the way, fervently scribbling in the margins of these cherished friends/guides, I realized I might be more implicated in the literary project than I suspected, and the reader became a writer. The bulk of my first book of original aphorisms (Signposts to Elsewhere) was composed between the improbable ages of 18-21 (when I experienced my first deep taste of silence and solitude, as a college student in the US for the first time). Though it would take nearly a decade for me to release the manuscript from my clutches and allow it to get published, I had found a raison d'être!

Art was to save me, again, and offer me new life at 32. Feeling claustrophobic and winded after working at the United Nations in Egypt, for over nine years, I decided to take a leap of faith. This meant leaving the security of everything I knew behind and returning to the United States. Less than a year after applying, I was granted something call an Alien of Extraordinary Ability Visa (given to lucky artists) which made me feel a little like ET and that the tip of my fingers might be glowing...

It also meant that I had found a new home. Now, almost 10 years later, after that fateful move, I find myself happily married, and with six books to my name. Mysterious thing Art ... how if one is faithful to it and fortunate, it time, it alters the artist and recreates them in its own image.