Friday Finds: Versions of ‘Poem Six,’ Ibn Arabi’s ‘Interpreter of Desires’

The Johannesburg Review of Books recently published two “translations” by Robin Moger, both responses to the sixth poem in The Interpreter of Desires, a cycle of sixty-one poems by theSufi poet and philosopher Mohieddine Ibn Arabi (1165–1240 CE):

Both come from a project of translation-in-correspondence between Moger and poet-translator Yasmine Seale, in which they “each write a translation of the same poem then send the text to our correspondent. The second version is written as a response to this text, and the third to the second, and so on until we are exhausted.”

Moger writes, in his introduction to the two poems:

‘Poem Six’ is a complaint, the poet mourning the departure of a group of travellers and haunted by their absence. A plain translation of the poem’s first line might be rendered: ‘All fortitude and patience gone, now they have gone; / They have gone, yet they dwell in my heart’s dark heart.’

Moger adds:

The first translation might be regarded as a close rendition of the Arabic original, the second, no less a translation of the text, is written for Cape Town where I live as a non-resident resident.

The first begins: “No more standing it / Or bearing now / They are no more. / Are no more here / Yet they stand in the dim hall still of your heart.”

You can read the poems in their entireties at the JRB.

More of Moger’s work is available at

And further on Moger-Seale’s Ibn Arabi collaborations at ArabLit.