A look at ‘rose-water syrup’, a beautiful and powerful collection of poems [book review]

Maha Zimmo, author of rose-water syrupis from a Palestinian background, with much of her family still living in the occupied Gaza Strip. While she immigrated to Canada at the age of four with her parents, Maha’s identity of being an immigrant and a Palestinian in the West helped shaped her into the prolific writer she is today.

I have been a writer my entire life. I would say that right after ‘Muslim’, it’s the one thing by which I identify most.”

While Maha has had plenty of experience in writing long-form and more article and essay-based writing pieces, her sudden devotion to poetry came about in a unique and inspiring way. Speaking to TMV about how rose-water syrup came to life, she explained:

I was, in the late summer of 2016, about to hit some heartache. Like so many, I had had enough, so I promised myself that I would, rather than sitting in the pain, use every gram of it to create something new. Not simply the pain of that particular situation, but rather the cumulative hurt of everything I had experienced to date at the hands of men (and of course, sometimes, but not always, with my eye wilfully turned blind).”

In a span of about one year, Maha wrote 150 poems, accumulating into what she would end up calling rose-water syrup. Although in the beginning it was difficult to find publishers wanting to collaborate, Maha explained that it did not bother her in the least. “Oddly, it didn’t bother me the way one might imagine because I had a book!”, Maha told TMV, “[and] even if it never got published, I had written a book, and no one could take that away, alhamdullilah”.


It was only until February of this year, while Maha was visiting some family members in Tunisia and held up in bed with a horrible ear infection, that she received a miraculous email from Cyberwit asking for a manuscript for her collection of poetry. The rest is history, and Maha’s rose-water syrup is the result of hard work, inspiring life-events, and faith in Allah.

“we burn the kink straight
peroxide hair
confuse pale skin with (en)light(enment).

we swap blood for alcohol
crisp bacon
face west. 

we have learned
to dust our brows with powder instead of soil.

fading our ancestors
because this is the colour of civilzed.

-the colonized iii”

rose-water syrup itself is a beautifully written collection of poems, touching on subjects from femininity, colonization, immigrant experiences, love, and her deep connection to Palestine. Written with an almost tangible scent of roses and laced with emotions of sadness, hope, love, and sometimes despair, each poem reaches out with a million possible ways to connect with the reader.

“do not lie to other women
or pit yourself against other women.
do not speak poorly of them
or elevate them at their cost.
do not hurt them
or disgrace them
or disrespect other women.

every time you do
you cut yourself
and We have bled out for long enough.

-The (only) Rules”

As a Muslim community, the need to support and nurture a stronger literature and creative arts community grows stronger every day. The more our voices, experiences, creativity, and opinions are heard on a wider scale, the more we can hope to combat the negativity that surrounds the Muslim community in general.


rose-water syrup is the perfect response to the greater need for Muslim creativity, as it weaves together faith, love, and an important female voice to create a masterpiece of poetry. Let’s hope Maha continues write and inspire us more with her beautiful poetry!

To find a copy of rose-water syrup, click here.



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