Beloved Syrian poet and public intellectual Rasha Omran doesn’t yet have a collection printed in English. But, while looking around for #WiTMonth, we ran across an online book of 20 of her poems, published trilingually:
Omran, who recently appeared at the Northlit Nordic Literature Festival, is a well-known Syrian poet and public intellectual. I knew you could read her “When Longing Tormented Me,” translated by Camilo Gomez-Rivas, on the Banipal website, and a conversation between Omran and august poet Charles Simic on the New York Review of Books site: “Syria with One Eye.”
But I was surprised to find a trilingual collaboration online with the English title Defy the Silence. The poems are taken from Omran’s The Woman Who Dwelt in the House Before, with translations to English and Italian by Abdelrehim Youssef, Kim Echlin, and Monica Pereschi.
Echlin introduces the collection:
Rasha Omran was born in 1964 in rural Syria. Her birthplace, Malaja in the Tartus district, is a traditional home to the Alawite sect, a culturally progressive community of professionals, writers, musicians and artists. Rasha’s father, Mohamed Omran, was a poet, activist, and journalist, and their home was a cultural gathering place for intellectuals and artists. As a child she read freely in her family library and she later attended Damascus University to study Arabic literature. After graduation she directed Syria’s International Al-Sindiyan Festival of Culture for eighteen years. She has published six collections of poetry and is the editor of an anthology of contemporary Syrian poets. She now lives in exile in Cairo, Egypt.
And why trilingual? Echlin:
An edition of Rasha Omran’s poetry in Arabic, English, and Italian embraces the rich potential of our cultures “side by side.” Translation has always been an act that defies incomprehension and fear. This trilingual edition is our resistance.
The book opens:
Each time I begin to write about love
the other woman reaches out
and pushes my fingers from the keyboard
the lonely woman who lost everything
the wild woman
who looks like me