Friday Finds: ‘A Song for the Lightning Bird’

Over at The Center for the Art of Translation’s Two Lines journal, Mona Kareem has translated Ra’ad Abdul Qadir’s (1953-2003) “A Song for the Lightning Bird“:

Iraqi poet Ra’ad Abdul Qadir suffered a heart attack and died in 2003, at the age of just 50. He had published three collections before his death, and he was the long-time editor of the literary magazine Aqlam.

Two more collections were published after his death, and more of his work has yet to be published.

Abdul Qadir’s poetry hasn’t appeared much in English translation, although “His Life” was one of the 15 poems chosen for the New Directions poetry pamphlet 15 Iraqi Poets. It was translated by Dunya Mikhail and opens: “At the moment / of the bridge / of crossing / of the shadow / of the step / of the rhythm / of the echo / of the trace of life.”

Mona Kareem’s translation is published bilingually. It opens:

Sleep quiet and safe
seven rose bushes will guard your sleep
and a bird whistling a heavenly tune,

and in the original:

نم هادئاً
بأمان
سبع شجيرات ورد يحرسن نومك
وطائر يصفر لحناً سماوياً

The poem is from one of Abdul Qadir’s posthumous collections, Ṣaqr fawqa raʼsahu shams; ʻAṣr al-taslīyah, which was published in 2006. You can read it in full at the Center for the Art of Translation website.

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