Friday Finds: Conor Bracken Translates the Late Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine

Over at Youssef Rakha’s Cosmopolitan Hotel is work by Moroccan poet and novelist Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine, in translation by Conor Bracken, from a new book — Scorpionic Sun — recently published by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center:

The collection has a foreword by poet-translator Pierre Joris and an afterword by Bracken; Joris writes about Khaïr-Eddine’s “intensity” while for Bracken it’s “the feelings of vigor and strangeness beating inside his poetry.”

Khaïr-Eddine (1941-1995) wrote more than a dozen books, both collection of poetry and novels, although this is the first time his work has been opened up in English.

Bracken writes, in his afterword, of coming across the poems in 2013, in Joris and Habib Tengour’s massive anthology, Poems for the Millennium. “I was amazed any how he brings together bodies separated by enormous swathes of experience, time, and space,” Bracken writes. “The poems are aware of themselves as bodily phenomena, artifacts that emerge from and recompose themselves in a body.”

The Cosmopolitan Hotel runs a poem from the center of the collection, “Gennevilliers,” which shifts between prose and poetry, story and sound:

It opens:

They got to know each other in Paris between two smoking faces which it was said were fired blanks. The machine guns launched black and yellow texts onto the café terraces. Ancestral huts and migraines crucified the gossiping sun of a late autumn in which convalescents were stretching out electrified limbs. One spoke adroitly about these rhymes bees of inconsistent blondeness. They weren’t listening or pretended not to hear. In their navel rooted the reign of a sphecoid wasp-star which itched throughout the discussion. They were anxious to go home however their legs had become the sole emblem of a museum of the nearby desert. They broke their ribs several times in the middle of the terrace. At a neighboring table the devil applied his makeup. At that very moment a tom-tom unleashed a drumbeat inside their stomachs and inexhaustible molecules. In their left lung Zodiac howled; and Time, whom one never meant to interrupt, plummeted incontinent and sat on their sentences, chewing them like birdshit. Time fled past the trashcans. Zodiac partied hard with long and bloody fireflies.

Read the full poem at Rakha’s Hotel.