For #WorldRefugeeDay, Four Poems and an Interview

It’s World Refugee Day, a day aimed — according to the UN organizers — at showing “world leaders that the global public stands with refugees”:

Around the time of World Refugee Day 2016, I e-spoke with David Herd, one of the editors of Refugee Tales, co-edited with Anna Pincus.

This WRD, a second edition is about to come out (July 20, 2017), Refugee Tales: Part II, with contributions by Kamila Shamsie, Marina Warner, Helen Macdonald, and others. The first was a moving and challenging collection that aims to change the landscape for refugees in the UK, particularly the language and laws that allow for indefinite detention. It takes its first leap from Canterbury Tales, and it is structured as a set of anonymous “as-told-to” narratives, written up by fourteen different authors. But it is not “only” a book — it is also tied to a walk across the English landscape, with refugees and supporters.

David Herd talked about why Canterbury, the relationship between art and action, and what’s happened since the collection was conceived. Read the interview elsewhere on ArabLit.

The Four Poems

From: The refugee tells

By Sargon Boulus, trans. Youssef Rakha

The refugee absorbed in telling his tale

feels no burning, when the cigarette stings his fingers.

He’s absorbed in the awe of being Here

after all those Theres: the stations, and the ports,

the search parties, the forged papers…

[the poem in full]

From: The Last in a Line of Refugee Descendents

By Ashraf Fayadh, trans. Jonathan Wright

Being a refugee means standing at the end of the queue
to get a fraction of a country.
Standing is something your grandfather did, without knowing the reason.
And the fraction is you.
The country: a card you put in your wallet with your money.
Money: pieces of paper with pictures of leaders.
Pictures: they stand in for you until you go back.
Going back: a mythical creature that appears in your grandfather’s stories.
Here endeth the first lesson.
The lesson is conveyed to you so that you can learn the second lesson, which is “what do you signify?”

[the poem in full]

From: No search, no rescue

By Jehan Bseiso

Maps on our backs.
Long way from home.

[the poem in full]

From: A refugee in the paradise that is Europe

By Hassan Blasim, trans. Jonathan Wright

In their pictures they draw you drowning.
They put you in their museums and applaud.
They decide to stop hitting you and set up a military unit to confront you.
Academics get new grant money to research your body and your soul.
Politicians drink red wine after an emergency meeting to discuss your fate.

[the poem in full]

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