Summer Reading: New Poetry Translations Online

Not exactly “beach reading,” but you could peruse these on your phone as you listen to the waves.

Portrait of al-Sayyab from
Portrait of al-Sayyab from

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab

In Jadaliyya’s summer “culture bouquet,” they feature the Iraqi poet’s “Whorehouse,” trans. Levi Thompson. (You can read the original here.)


Sargon Boulus

Also from the “culture bouquet” (a great one this season), a poem by the great Boulus trans. Suneela Mubayi

“An Attempt to Reach Beirut by Sea”

Muhammad al-Mahgut

Also in the summer “culture bouquet,” the Syrian poet’s “Roman Amphitheatres,” trans. Ahmad Diab, from the poet’s East of Eden, West of God. 

“Roman Amphitheaters”

Mohammed al-Ajami

Qatari poet, serving a 15-year sentence at Doha Central Prison for “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime” and “criticizing the Emir” in two of his poems, managed to record and send out a poem from prison last month. It’s been translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.

“Poem from a Prison Cell”

Ahmed Matar

The new website “Political Arabic Poetry” promises that, over the course of the next few weeks, they will be releasing a collection of nine English translations of poems originally written in Arabic, featuring works by Amal Dunqul, Ahmed Fuad Negm, Ahmed Matar, Mahmoud Darwish, and Sayyid Qutb. (The last one’s a bit of a curveball, but okay.) The project begins with Matar:

People of Exile

Tareq al-Karmy

The New Statesman has published two poems by al-Karmy, trans. Liz Lochhead. They can both be found in the new collection of Palestinian poetry, A Bird is Not a StoneYou can find out more about the project on the book’s blog.

The Legend of Mythic, Proud Perfection




  1. Shouldn’t that be “East of Eden…”?

    1. Woops.

    2. Weird, actually, now that I look at it, this is an early draft. And some of the poetry is missing. Bah!

  2. Thank you for mentioning our political Arabic poetry project! I’m curious on how you came across it 🙂
    We are definitely interested in talking to you more about it and hearing your thoughts about the essay we wrote on the significance of political poetry in the Arabic tradition.

    1. Boy, I’m not sure! I was strolling around the internet and bumped into it, I suppose. I’m mlynxqualey – at – gmail – dot – com, if you could drop me an email.

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