Friday Finds: A Conversation with Jehan Bseiso and Filmpoem ‘No Search, No Rescue’

Beirut-based poet and aid worker Jehan Bseiso recently read some of her work at the Netherlands Flemish Institute in Cairo, and Mada Masr followed the public talk with an online interview:

In the interview, Bseiso talks about the experience of having her poetry translated into Arabic, a language that is her mother tongue, but also a place where she says she hasn’t “mastered the chambers of creative writing”:

A volunteer translator reached out to me, Marwa Mechref from Alexandria, and we’ve been working on some translations together. To be honest, I don’t feel complete ownership over the work in Arabic, and that’s something I would like to improve. Being naturally bilingual, you already inhabit this in-between kind of space. And hearing my poetry in my mother tongue, it feels very different.

My poems have also been translated into other languages; it’s been beautiful to read them in French. And each time it feels very different. When a piece is translated, it has a life of its own. Languages have chambers within them, and I still haven’t mastered the chambers of creative writing in the Arabic language. But that’s what it feels like for me, like a house with so many rooms that you can go in and out of. Definitely, in my house, there are all these rooms and I’m still exploring them.

She also spoke about having her work translated into different media:

Last year I was contacted by the Italian composer, Silvia Borzelli, who found my poem No Search, No Rescue and transformed it into a musical piece sung by six voices, It was broadcast on national French radio in January. When Silvia contacted me, she mentioned that she considers poetry as a kind of music already, so she doesn’t usually work with poems, but something about No Search, No Rescue was very musical to her ears.

Interestingly enough, two other composers in Norway and the UK have since reached out about that same poem, with plans to set it to music and performance. At the risk of cliché, I strongly believe the words don’t belong to me anyway, they just pass through me.

A few days after that interview ran, Bseiso sent out an email about a new life for her poem “No Search, No Rescue”:

I wrote No Search, No Rescue two years ago, after visiting two lovers held in detention, torn apart by shipwreck, criminalized for even trying to escape war and poverty.

No Search No Rescue was first published by the Electronic Intifada and then it was turned by Silvia Borzelli into a beautiful musical piece sung by six voices in Italian for public French Radio.

Now thanks to Ingrid Fochs Maculé the poem is captured on video for the first time. We used leftover footage and b-roll that was filmed in Menorca in April when I participated in Sandra Maunac‘s Mediterranean literary gathering.

A true labor of love, combining poetry, music and now film with a message that I hope will resonate even with those of us lucky enough to be out of the water, on the shore.

View the filmpoem on Vimeo: