Friday Finds: Poetry by Jan Dammu and Amjad Nasser

Over at Asymptote, Suneela Mubayi has translated four poems by Jan Dammu (pen name of Iraqi writer Dinkha Mimmu Yusuf), and the Poetry Translation Centre has cooperatively translated Jordianian writer Amjad Nasser (also a pen name):

asymptoteDammu’s poems are full of anxiety and insomnia, leaping between the mystery of mathematics and the crude reality of the moment. From “The Wilds of the Metropolis“:

You gnaw at sleep’s pear
and lie on a pile of ruses, dangers, and debacles
then rest on yesterday’s train
while your phantoms keep on pulsating, powerful, alive
Indeed they are your eternal comrades

About Dammu’s ouevre, Mubayi writes: “Jan Dammu’s poetry represents the absurdist and surreal philosophy he espoused. His metaphors, insights, and aphorisms allow a glimpse into a mind that was both disconnected from and aware of reality, especially some of its darker aspects. His poems eschew any kind of traditional Arabic poetic lyricism; instead they reflect the use of poetic techniques such as defamiliarization, collage, and fragmentation, derived from the influence of surrealism and Dadaism in modernist European poetry, especially their emphasis on strange juxtapositions of words to evoke sensations outside of their conventional representations.”


Meanwhile, the group at the Poetry Translation Centre was working on poetry by Amjad Nasser, and here you can see how the sausage was made, from the original to the “literal” translation, this time done by Atef Alshaer, to the final product, produced collaboratively by the workshop.

The poem moves in one swift paragraph from a trembling fragility, backwards through time to a baby bird, rebuilding “his abanoned nest.”

The workshop facilitator, Clare Pollard, wrote amusingly: “We were interested to note the frequency with which mothers appear in Arabic poetry, with their associations of home and loyalty, and it was agreed that male English poets would be unlikely to write about their mother’s milk in this way!”