> Skip to content

Ruth Padel’s powerful new collection on the Middle East

'Making is our defence against the dark...'

Through images of conflict and craftsmanship, Ruth Padel’s powerful new poems address the Middle East, tracing a quest for harmony in the midst of destruction. An oud, the central instrument of Middle Eastern music , is made and broken. An ancient synagogue survives attacks, a Palestinian boy in a West Bank refugee camp learns capoeira, and a guide shows us Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity during a siege. At the heart of the book are Christ’s last words from the Cross.

Uniting this moving collection is the common ground shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam: a vision of human life as pilgrimage and struggle but also as music and making. With care and empathy, Ruth Padel suggests how rifts in the Holy Land speak to conflict in our own hearts. 'We identify. Some chasm / through the centre must be in and of us all.'


There are points where one feels Padel is a poetic Daniel Barenboim. It is inlaid poetry... as if Padel were embroidering a tapestry. Each poem turns out to be an instrument and Padel knows how to play. Her command of register is masterly… There is no doubting Padel's accomplishment, her poems stand tall partly because she tends to rise about the personal.

Kate Kellaway, Observer

Padel is one of our most talented writers. She turns her multi-layered poetic attention to the Middle East, seeking peace and harmony through sensitive and moving poems that offer hope even as they reflect upon struggle.

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

Lyrical and sensual, albeit with a keen awareness that in war zones, music, love and poetry are sidelined even as they become more vital. Padel skilfully juxtaposes the modern world with the ancient.

Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday

Padel's great characteristic is her range. Making an Oud interweaves contemporary Middle Eastern politics, the history and culture of the Abrahamic religions, natural beauty and love poetry. Padel is not writing partisan polemic but attempting something much more difficult, a kind of cultural synthesis.


Superb collection… Sorrowful and elegiac...though it ends on a note not entirely without hope

Lesley Mcdowell, Glasgow Sunday Herald

Her prolific and passionate creativity is proof that “making is our defence against the dark”

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

This is a book of dark, broken melodies, consciously beautiful, underpinned by pain and terror

Peter Scupham, Literary Review

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    July 15, 2014

    Chatto & Windus

    80 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    July 3, 2014

    Vintage Digital

    80 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle AU
    • iBooks
    • Google Play EBook AU
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks