Poems in and around 10 collections published in 2017, 2018, and beyond. Only two are by women, as nearly all of the poetry translated from Arabic to English is by men:
1) The Silence That Remains,by Ghassan Zaqtan, trans. Fady Joudah (Copper Canyon, 2017)
Joudah has described Zaqtan as an “art historian” of his own experience, and indeed Zaqtan’s poetry and prose (Describing the Past, Where the Bird Disappeared) show a great collector’s eye.
From Zaqtan’s “Glee,” tr. Joudah, appears on The Adroit Journal. It begins:
They stood at the bus stop,
two schoolgirls, a woman, and a wind:
Wind, my hat is made of literary straw,
my coat is tattered, my hankie a rain
2) I Don’t Want This Poem to End, by Mahmoud Darwish, trans. Mohammad Shaheen (Interlink, 2017)
No poems from Shaheen’s translation of this collection are online, so instead from “Standing Before the Ruins of Al-Birweh,” tr. Sinan Antoon, from the same collection, published on Jadaliyya. A brief excerpt:
3) A Tree Whose Name I Don’t Know, by Golan Haji, trans. Stephen Watts and Golan Haji (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2017)
I really can’t say enough about Haji’s poetry. Read it here; read it in his collaborations with Fady Joudah; read it anywhere.
A moment from “A Light in Water,” published on MPT:
At this moment, the man is suspended in mid-air like a diver or a foetus, his body a ball, and nothing is holding him in place; around him small leaves and fruits are dropping from the beaks of birds that are flying above him, though we cannot see them. Maybe a sparrow is feeding its young a large butterfly whose wings are crumbling in its beak and the dust of the wings settles on the water’s face and wrinkles slightly there.
4) Adrenaline, by Ghayath Almadhoun, trans. Catherine Cobham (Action Books, 2017)
This collection was longlisted for the prestigious 2017 Best Translated Book Award. You can read two of the poems over on The Guardian. “How I Became…” begins:
Her grief fell from the balcony and broke into pieces, so she needed a new grief. When I went with her to the market the prices were unreal, so I advised her to buy a used grief. We found one in excellent condition although it was a bit big. As the vendor told us, it belonged to a young poet who had killed himself the previous summer. She liked this grief so we decided to take it.
5) Concerto Al-Quds, by Adonis, translated by Khaled Mattawa (Yale University Press, 2018)
From his “Afflictions,” posted on the Kenyon Review:
—How can you face the rock of al-Quds stained with urine and excrement?
—Go, cleanse your feet with light, and repent.
Also note: A new translation of Adonis’s Songs of Mihyar the Damascene, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Ivan Eubanks, is coming soon.(New Directions Press, forthcoming 2019).
6) Defy the Silence,by Rasha Omran, with translations to English and Italian by Abdelrehim Youssef, Kim Echlin, and Monica Pereschi (samizdat press, 2018)
The trilingual book, available free online, opens with this poem:
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
7) The Blueness of the Evening: Selected Poems by Hassan Najmi, by Hassan Najmi, translated by Mbarek Sryfi and Eric Sellin (University of Arkansas Press, 2018)
I couldn’t find any poems from this collection online, but there is a version of “The Blueness of Evening” translated by Khaled Mattawa on Poetry International Web. It opens:
I desire other places to see you
Grass to rest on
And thirsty tongue
To drink with and to name you
I desire night.
I desire another settlement to my days
And I desire you
8) War Songs, by ‘Antarah ibn Shaddad, tr. James E. Montgomery with Richard Sieburth (Library of Arabic Literature, 2018)
This muscular, charming translation of ‘Antarah is newly arrived from the Library of Arabic Literature; their first collection of poems. You can read some of the poems in The Paris Review, and you can see a video reading here:
9) Exhausted on the Cross, by Najwan Darwish, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. (Expected publication date: 2020.)
None of this is ready yet, but you can read Darwish poems translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid in their earlier collaboration, the acclaimed Nothing More to Lose. From the poem “Want Ad,” which knows my life:
10) Until I Give Up the Idea of Houses, by Iman Mersal, translated by Robyn Creswell. (Forthcoming, unscheduled.)
This is also not out, but you can read poems by Mersal in Creswell’s translation. From “The Idea of Houses,” published in The Nation:
Olga’s husband wasn’t there to witness this regal
episode. Maybe this is why he still thinks the house will
be a loyal friend when he goes blind—a house whose
foundations will hold him steady and whose stairs, out
of mercy, will protect him from falls in the dark.
A wonderful list, and thank you for including us. We’re incredibly proud to have published Rasha Omran’s “Defy the Silence” and we thank Kim Echlin for bringing this project to us.
Paul and Fiona at Hamilton Arts & Letters magazine / samizdat press
Wouldn’t have missed it!
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