There seem to be numerous studies, of late, about how fiction makes us better, more empathetic people. I suppose it’s possible. But for me, while reading good fiction can make me jittery with something akin to happiness, it’s reading a (good) poem that sends me back into myself, to the cold, clear air of a humanity I often forget.
Perhaps it’s in the shaking loose of words, the lack of narrative so overbearing elsewhere in life. In any case, poetry. Robin Moger at QISASUKHRA has published three newly translated poems by Yasser Abdellatif: “Night Tour,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Romance.” From the latter:
A black cat mewing like a siren,
Captive in the courtyard of a high tower
With walls as smooth as Fate.
Shall the mewl serve
To pick a hole in the walls of despair?
I dream of the cat as I try to pick a hole
In the walls of my sleep
To cross through to the other side…
All three are from Abdellatif’s 2009 collection, Night Tour. The first was previously trans. Youssef Rakha and previously published in Al Ahram, re-translated here.
Abdellatif also has a new short-story collection out (Settling Down and Setting Out: Stories and Tales), and his stories also borrow from poetic forms. You can read translations of his “Sorting Shelves” and “Country Train” on QISASUKHRA. If you’re interested in more Yasser Abdellatif, there’s also this.
I saw the angel
and the singing birds slaughtered.
I saw the horse,
the grieving women,
the dead trees, and other women
inured to screams and wailing.
I saw the streets, the gusting wind,
the sports cars
racing by, the boats, the innocent kids.
I said, “Master of the Water, this is
how things are: tell me about the clay,
the fire, the smoke, the shadows, the smell
of reality.” Deliberately, I did not ask
about our homes.
And the Poetry Translation Centre has “The Earth Opens and Welcomes You,” by Abdellatif Laâbi, trans. from the French by Andre Naffis-Sahely.
Also: The Stephen Spender Prize 2014 is now open for entries. It offers publication and cash prizes, and invites translations of poems from “any language, classical or modern, into English.”
More on how to enter. Entries must arrive no later than midnight GMT on Friday May 23, 2014.