10 By Najwan Darwish; Then You Be the Translator

Najwan Darwish is a renowned Palestinian poet and a leading voice in contemporary Arabic literature, also working as a journalist, editor and critic. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages:

Nothing More to Lose, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, was his first collection in EnglishAbu-Zeid is now working on the second, currently titled Exhausted on the Cross, with an expected publication date of 2020.

If you’re in London, you can attend an October 23 workshop led by Atef Alshaer to translate N. Darwish’s poetry. The workshop is open to all, and there’s no need for any level of language proficiency; just a desire to play with language and move poems from one language into another.

For those who aren’t in London, 10 poems by N. Darwish. I’ve taken just a fragment of the beginning of each; all can be found, in full, at the links below.

1. Want Ad

I need a strict manager
and an energetic secretary
and a correspondent to make my coffee
and my tea

2. Mary

My mother is obsessed with reading about Jesus these days.

3. A Moment of Silence

And what did the Armenians say?

4. We Never Stop

I’ve got no country to return to
and no country to be banished from:

5. If You Only Knew

I can’t buy my friends from death
Death buys
but does not sell

6. Take This Waltz

My night moves
between the tunes of Sabah Fakhri
and the rhythms of Abdel Wahab

7. Sleeping in Gaza

Fado, I’ll sleep like people do
when shells are falling
and the sky is torn like living flesh
I’ll dream, then, like people do
when shells are falling:
I’ll dream of betrayals

8. A Family Album

He stopped me at the banquet and said, “I’d rather be hanged with Omar al-Mukhtar than share the stage with these spies who speak in our name.”

9. Rise Again

And I return to that town,
to that house,
to that room:
the bones of the dead are beneath me.

10. Nothing Left to Lose

Lay your head on my chest and listen
to the layers of ruins
behind the madrasah of Saladin

 

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