Translation of Ramsey Nasr’s ‘Heavenly Life’ Shortlisted for Popescu

I admit, I don't really like the jacket.

The shortlist for this year’s Popescu Prize was announced earlier this week. The prize shortlist, which honors poetry in translation (from European languages) includes Ramsey Nasr’s Heavenly Life, translated by David Colmer.

The six-strong shortlist was selected from 73 submitted titles in 25 European languages.

Palestinian-Dutch poet, essayist, dramatist and actor Ramsey Nasr is well-known in the Netherlands, where he was voted the nation’s Poet Laureate in 2009. Heavenly Life is Nasr’s first poetry collection in English. The poems were selected by the poet and translated by the award-winning David Colmer, joint-winner of the 2010 IMPAC prize.

Colmer has a “10 rules” contribution to ArabLit forthcoming on September 22.

Heavenly Life includes the poem that propelled Nasr to his poet-laureate post in 2009, as well as many musically inspired works. According to a release from publisher Banipal Books,  “The title poem ‘Heavenly Life’, meanwhile, was written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s birth and is based on his Fourth Symphony, the four sections of the poem echoing the structure, tone and length of its movements. It is named after ‘Das himmlische Leben’, the song that forms the symphony’s finale.”

And the judges said:

There is an exuberance and energy about these poems – poems for the voice and for performance, which nonetheless sit beautifully on the page and move easily between playfulness and a great humanity. Ramsey Nasr in David Colmer’s translation has a strong appeal to new generations of poetry readers.

From the opening of Nasr’s “The Subhuman and His Habitat,” 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

Keep reading the poem>>

Reviews, excerpts, and more about the poet:

From Susannah Tarbush, over at the Tanjara.

Ramsey Nasr’s website

An interview with Nasr about his year as poet laureate.

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.

More about the book from Banipal. You can also buy it there.

The Popescu

Other shortlisted titles

The Guardian: Popescu Prize shortlist announced

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