Ghassan Zaqtan’s US & UK Tour (Finally) Happening

Last April, an acclaimed translation of Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan’s tenth collection, Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, was released by Yale University Press. As fits such an occasion, the press scheduled a multi-city tour of the U.S. (and a stop-over in London) by both author and his award-winning poet-translator, Fady Joudah. But:

Zaqtan (left) and Joudah (right)

As the ACLU reported back in April, “Mr. Zaqtan applied for a visa on March 7, 2012 at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and was told at the time that he would receive his visa within two weeks. Four weeks later, Mr. Zaqtan has yet to receive a response.”

PEN added: “Worried that the United States might been delaying visa processing for political reasons, PEN joined with the ACLU, our partners in challenging a number of post-9/11 instances of ideological exclusion, to send a letter to U.S. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh asking for urgent action on Zaqtan’s visa application.”

Unfortunately, Zaqtan did not receive a visa, and Joudah had to do the book-launch events alone. At San Francisco State University, organizers also ran a YouTube video that Zaqtan’s son had recorded in early April:

However, Zaqtan’s tour was rescheduled for this October, and he has now — I’m told — arrived in the United States. Tour cities include Amherst, Boston, and Waltham (MA), Claremont, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, (CA), Austin and Houston (TX), New Haven (CT), Albany and NYC (NY), and DC (DC). After that, Zaqtan will return through London and will have an appearance at The Mosaic Rooms. (Full schedule below.)

Joudah said in an email that, “Palestinian literature is essential to world literature; it has had to deal with a serious concern of the contemporary human condition embodied in the construct of nation-state; the ethics of loss and memory. In sharing Ghassan’s poetry I hope to go beyond widening the understanding of aesthetic diversity within Arabic and Palestinian poetry, and into the deepening of that body of literature that is concerned with the deterritorialized existence.”

Joudah echoed sentiments he shared last spring in a Q&A with the YUP on their website, where said that he believes “Palestinian poetry and literature is important on the world-stage. I believe it has much to offer us, in the way we have embraced post-Holocaust literature, Polish literature, Irish or Chilean literature.”

But this is not just a faithful translation of an important Palestinian poet; these are poems in themselves. Joudah told the Beloit Poetry Journal that “[n]either fidelity nor infidelity is the question per se; rather it is the ‘new’ poem: the thing itself.”

Cover detail from an installation by Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour. More on the cover below.

A few of Zaqtan’s poems, trans. Joudah:

The One You Accidentally Found in the Mirror

The Camp Prostitute

Preliminary Sketch

A Graphic 1995

An excerpt from the book, from Yale University Press

Posts about Zaqtan from back in March/April:

‘Palestinian Poetry and Literature is Important on the World Stage’

Palestinian Poet Ghassan Zaqtan Waiting…and Waiting…on Visa for US Book Tour

Poet Ghassan Zaqtan (Not) Reading in San Francisco

The venues, of course, are subject to change; please double-check with the venue before heading out:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Amherst Books

8 Main Street, Amherst, MA
8:00 PM Poetry Reading & Book Signing
Hosted by the Creative Writing Center at Amherst College

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Harvard University

Rethinking Translation Seminar
Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, Barker 133
6:00 PM Reading and Discussion

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Boston University

The BU Castle, 225 Bay State Road, Boston MA
12-2 PM Conversation & Poetry Reading
Lunch will be served before and during the talk

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Brandeis University

Mandel Center for Humanities, Room 303 (The Reading Room)
Waltham, MA
5:00 PM Poetry Reading & Book Signing

Monday, October 8, 2012

Scripps College

Hampton Room, Malott Commons,
Scripps College, Claremont, CA
7:15 PM Poetry Reading & Book Signing

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

University of Texas at Austin

12 -1 PM Class visit to Introduction to Creative Writing, CBA 4.124
7 PM
Poetry reading (with Fady Joudah), UTC 3.124, 
8:30 PM Reception

Monday, October 15, 2012

Yale University

Whitney Humanities Center, Room 208
New Haven, CT
5:00 PM Poetry Reading

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New York State Writers Institute • SUNY Albany

4:15 PM Informal Q&A with students
8:00 PM Poetry Reading

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Asian American Writers Workshop NY

110-112 West 27th St, NYC
7:00 PM Translation Night at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop
Headliners: Fady Joudah and Ghassan Zaqtan; other participants: Jeffrey Yang, Sinan Antoon, and Susan Bernofsky

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New York University

The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies
(The Richard Ettinghausen Library at the Hagop Kevorkian Center)
12:30 PM – 1:45 PM, 50 Washington Square South at 255 Sullivan St

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Columbia University

8:00 PM, Room 509, Knox Hall
606 W 122nd Street, New York

Friday, October 19, 2012

Georgetown University

Lannan Center Conference Room / New North 408
Noon to 2:00 PM

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Westmont College

Winter Hall 210, Campus of Westmont College, Santa Barbara
4:00 PM Poetry Reading & Book Signing

Thursday, October 25, 2012

University of California Los Angeles
Exact Location TBD, Campus of UCLA, Los Angeles
3:00 PM Poetry Reading

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rice University/University of Houston
UH / Rice University Visiting Writers Series
Honors Commons
5:30 PM Poetry Reading

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mosaic Rooms
7 PM (more details here)

Note on the cover

Art historian Maymanah Farhat noted, about the cover image above, “That detail is of an installation by Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour. The work was created out of mud, something that Mansour spearheaded in his boycotting of Israeli art supplies during the first Intifada. He and several others formed an influential artist collective that sought to use materials from the natural environment of Palestine as a poignant form of protest and resistance against the occupation. There is a whole period of contemporary Palestinian art that was dominated by ceramics, installation, sculpture and bas-relief using everything from earthworks to cactus fibers.”