Bulaq 23: ‘Poems That Cross Language and Time’

Hosting international conversations for Bulaq has been challenge enough when the writers were based in the US and UK. Calling in Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck — who lives in the UAE, where voice over IP is banned — threw up fresh obstacles:

Fortunately, Zeina hung in, and we were able to talk poetry.

Zeina is winner of a number of literary prizes, including the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize for her collection Louder than Hearts and the 2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize for 3arabi Song. Her There Was and How Much There Was was a Carol Ann Duffy “Laureate’s Choice,” and her first book, To Live in Autumn, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize and was a runner-up for the 2014 Julie Suk Award.

We focused not all all these (many) awards, but on her “duets,” recent works that move between Arabic and English. The Australian magazine The Lifted Brow has published two duets that appeared in their #38; one more duet appears in print only, in And We Chose Everythinga collection of work by Lebanese poets; and more are forthcoming in The Adroit and Modern Poetry in Translation. We are particularly looking forward to “Dear white critic,                                                                                  رفيقي في الرحيل.”

After discussing the process by which she arrived at this form — a poetry that carves out space in both English and Arabic, and makes fresh meaning from their assonances and dissonances — she read her “Blue / أزرق.”

After that, we discussed Loss Sings, a collection of James Montgomery’s meditations that is twined with translations of work by seventh-century poet al-Khansa’. It is part of The Cahier Series, published by Sylph Editions in collaboration with The American University of Paris.

Listen to the podcast, #23.