Friday Finds: From Amjad Nasser’s ‘Petra’

One of Amjad Nasser’s most remarkable productions was the slender chapbook Petra, which was commissioned by a gallery in Jordan and published in six European languages, in addition to Arabic:

With the seven-language coffee-table book. Photo courtesy Amjad Nasser.

The compactly expressive English translations by Fady Joudah were published by Tavern Books as a separate, hand-sewn chapbook.

Although the Petra cycle of poems was folded into the collection A Map of Signs and Scents: New and Selected Poems, 1979–2014 (with translations by Joudah and Khaled Mattawa), the stand-alone Petra is a far more beautiful object, bearing only this epic travel-poem that builds and unbuilds, discovers and un-discovers Petra, which lay outside the gaze of Western observers until 1812.

As the poem itself notes, the “symmetry repeats / But dimensions vary[.]”

An excerpt appeared at The Missing Slate:

Early signatures of what awaits us in this wandering pilgrimage
will be met in el-Siq.
The signs prepare us, with cunning and seduction, for the coming shock.
A feeling of suffocation will alternate with one of relief.
The air can be completely still,
standing over the head like a mass,
and it can
suddenly rise
like a fan.
The water that tells of life
also tells of the place.
Those canals that used to deliver clear water
from springs that burst outside the city,
we will soon see them, almost as they were,
except they are dry now.
That’s what killed the city, that was
its Achilles’ heel.

Keep reading at The Missing Slate.

Get a copy from Tavern Books.

Also read this moving remembrance from Amjad Nasser’s son.