Etwebi, Mattawa writes, was not just a poet, but an artist-activist; it was Etwebi who helped Mattawa organize the Tripoli International Poetry Festival in 2012.
Etwebi was born in Tripoli in 1953, studied at Tripoli University, and did his doctorate at the University of Dublin. Also a physician, he’s published several poetry collections, including Balcony Poems, Your Friends Passed Along This Way, River of Music, Box of Old Laughs, and On the Knowledge of Creatures and Things. He also published a novel, Dardanin, and has translated a wide range of poetry into Arabic.
His English-language Poems from Above the Hill: Selected Poems of Ashur Etwebi was co-translated by Diallah Haidar and the prominent American poet Brenda Hillman. A number of his works have been included in other collections, such as Literature from the Axis of Evil and Poems for the Millennium.
From “Suns on a Stone,” trans. Samira Hassan ben Ammou and Pierre Joris:
in front of the camera this one stands upright in the lit space
this other one finds only shadow but smiles and puts his hand behind his back to better show the magnanimity of his gaze as his head turns toward the light
this one slowly opens his eyes so that dreams not disappear too fast from his head
this one tightens his fingers and bends his knees slightly for the wall to absorb a part of his tallness
and this one recites the sura right from the starts and counts the glasses on the coffee table
in front of the camera life flows tirelessly
“White Birds in a Black Space,” trans. Mattawa
“The Place Will Fit Everything,” trans. Mattawa
“Sabratha Fleeing,” trans. Mattawa
“Politics,” trans. Mattawa
Nine poems, trans. Khaled Mattawa and the author
You can follow him on twitter at @abmetwebi