‘This Collection is a Major Event’

Two authors — Yasser Abdellatif and Ahmad Yamani — listed Mohab Nasr’s Lord, Give Us a Book That We Might Read as one of their favorite reads of 2012. A while back, Youssef Rakha translated the titular poem; now QISASUKHRA has translated six more for you. For you!

yarabAbout the collection, Egyptian poet Ahmad Yamani had said that, “In the mid-90s, Mohab Nasr published his wonderful first poetry collection Your Eye is a Bird to be Stolen, and this was an important event within the Egyptian and Arabic poetry context at the time. Years passed after that, without Mohab publishing any new book. This year, he is back with a new collection, and the least that can be said about it is that it moved the current poetic recession with a special language and performance belonging solely to Mohab Nasr. This collection is a major event itself and the return of Mohab to poetry is another.”

Youssef Rakha said, in his review of the collection, “As is nearly always the case with poetry, it is next to impossible to say anything about the present book, apart from: ‘If you know Arabic, read it!'”

If you don’t know Arabic (or even if you do, and are interested in translation, or the movement of poetry from one linguistic space to another), “Disgrace,” “Apple garden,” “A point of view,” “The outstretched hand,” “A blow off the table,” and “My angel” are here.

From the opening of “A blow off the table“:

When he came to strike

His blow fell off the table,

His poise was shaken

And his whole life fell into despair.

“We warned him…” (they said)

“We saw his long neck beneath his friends’ windows

Bolted in the night;

We touched the black blooms on his pillow

And his thoughts scattered over the bedroom’s boards

Like damp butts.”

In his kitchen

The broad knife slept

Across the lone tomato

Left over from the night before;

His capsized shoe by the entrance

And its sole, bearing the filth of his life.

Eyes closed,

As though his eyes were somewhere else:

“Who are we?”

“Who am I and who are you?” Keep reading.

AlaakhalidBut that’s not all! QISASUKHRA has also brought you two poems from another Alexandrian poet, Alaa Khaled, the founder of one of Egypt’s most popular literary magazines, Amkenah. Youssef Rakha writes about Khaled in “Alaa Khaled: The egoist changes his ways,” and QISASUKHRA shares two poems from Khaled’s Beneath the Sun of Another Memory, also published in 2012, a year Yamani said demonstrated an “excellent resurgence in poetry.”

From the end of Khaled’s “From afar“:

I see the long empty hours

With me sitting on the sofa watching the rain,

The hours, not all of which I filled with memories,

Holes in the weave of days and months,

Channels for the guttering rains

Soaked up by the ground

And vanishing beneath a muddy layer of woe;

Somewhere inside me

Was a Nile, sprawling out

And peasants, who sat with me at eventide.



More poems by Alaa Khaled on Jadaliyya (in Arabic)