Rachida Madani’s ‘Tales of a Severed Head’ on PEN’s 2013 Poetry-in-translation Shortlist

Yesterday, PEN American Center announced the shortlists and judges for the 2013 PEN Literary Awards:


On the shortlist for the poetry-in-translation category is Moroccan poet Rachida Madani’s Tales of a Severed Head, trans. Marilyn Hacker.

In the past, only PEN winners and runners-up have been announced. However, this year, PEN decided to release shortlists in ten different categories. Two are translation-focused: one for poetry and one for prose.

In a prepared release, PEN’s controversial executive director, Suzanne Nossel, explained that “This year we saw a record number of submissions from both traditional and independent publishers, including an impressive showing of emerging authors”[.] …. For this reason, we have decided to release the shortlists and to highlight the hard work of our dedicated judges, so that the recognition that accompanies PEN’s awards program can benefit as many writers as possible.”

There is only one judge listed for the poetry-in-translation category, Don Mee Choi, while all the other categories list three judges. In any case, the full poetry-in-translation shortlist is:

Tales of a Severed Head by Rachida Madani (Yale University Press), trans. Marilyn Hacker

Spit Temple by Cecilia Vicuña (Ugly Duckling Presse), trans. Rosa Alcalá

Diadem by Marosa di Giorgio (BOA Editions), trans. Adam Giannelli

The Smoke of Distant Fires by Eduardo Chirinos (Open Letter Books), trans. G. J. Racz

Almost 1 Book/Almost 1 Life by Elfriede Czurda (Burning Deck), trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

The Shock of the Lenders and Other Poems by Jorge Santiago Perednik (Action Books), Molly Weigel

Other than what I think is an unfortunate opening poem, Madani’s collection is rich in its connections and language. Review forthcoming.

The final PEN winners and runners-up will be announced later this summer and will be honored at the 2013 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on Monday, October 21, 2013, at CUNY Graduate Center’s Proshansky Auditorium in New York City. All the shortlists can be seen here.

Also read:

The Majalla: A Tale of Two Poets

Selected poems from Madani’s collection:

Jadaliyya: Five Poems from The First Tale

Asymptote: The Second Tale

Guernica: The Second Tale: XV

Words Without Borders: XXIII


Here, Madani and Hacker read at Poets & Players: