Five Poems by Saadia Mufarreh: ‘A Poetess Is a Double Provocation’

Over at Sultan’s Seal, poet-translator Yasmine Seale has brought a poem of Saadia Mufarreh’s into English. The poem, which isn’t given a title, begins:

You’re not there 

but details linger. Who knows how

they trickle in and scurry out, 

how they hum like a knot

of sandgrouse caught

in the snare of distance, 

laying waste 

to silence, that stranger

not to be trusted,

getting the better of love,

that looted thing. 

This gorgeous, fantastically paced translation is a standout among the few works of Mufarreh’s that have been Englished, and is full of moments like, “Memories are/ the bruise of not being[.]” Mufarreh is a poet and critic, the arts editor of Al-Qabas daily newspaper in Kuwait. She graduated from Kuwait University in Arabic Language and Education in 1987 and has published several collections of poetry, including: Mere: A Mirror Lying Back (1999), Book of Sins (1997), When You’re Absent, I Saddle My Suspicion’s Horses(1994), and He Was the Last of the Dreamers(1990). She also has brought out critical writings and publications for children. She had won several awards, and was shortlisted for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award one of the years the prize was, for some reason, withheld.

Four more of her poems, it seems, have been translated into English:

Soon She Will Leave, translated by Hend Mubarek Aleidan with Patty Paine

To Fadwa Tuqan, translated by Nay Hannawi

Several of Mufarreh’s poems were included in Banipal 6.

Several more were included in Banipal 43translated by Alison Blecker.

And then there’s the “Untitled” poem, translated by Yasmine Seale, at Sultan’s Seal.

In a text published in Jehat, Mufarreh wrote: “Poetry is a gamble, [and] a poetess is a double provocation, the critics say!”

The piece ends, “Let them say what they want.”