The first English-language collection of the work of Palestinian-Dutch poet Ramsey Nasr is now available in English, translated by award-winning David Colmer. Heavenly Life is published by Banipal Books.
Nasr, who was voted the Netherlands’ poet laureate in 2009, initially worked as an actor. He published his debut collection in Dutch in 2000, titled 27 gedichten & Geen lied (27 Poems & No Song). According to a biography on Poetry International Web, his outspokenness about Israel-Palestine has made him the topic of much discussion in the Netherlands.
The Banipal Books release notes that, among the poems selected for Heavenly Life is the one that got Nasr voted into the poet-laureate post.
From the opening of Nasr’s “The Subhuman and His Habitat,” translated by David Colmer, which is also in the collection:
welcome to the land of milk and honey
where figalmondapricots grow
unmetaphorically on accommodating trees
eat of them and be my guest today
i’ll pay your taxi to the first roadblock
my father waits behind the second roadblock
he’ll make you his guest of honour too
with oil bread oregano sesame
stars press down upon his roof
sleep there and give him nadir’s love
A biography, which says that “enjoys creating long, unfurling verses in which various voices resound, in which humour and tragedy coexist, and in which moralism is not eschewed.” Also, links to a number of his poems in Dutch and in English.
An Q&A with Nathalie Handal about the city of Antwerp, on Words Without Borders.