Born on This Day: 7 Poems by Fadwa Tuqan

Palestinian poet and memoirist Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003) — whose acclaimed autobiography, A Mountainous Journey, was translated to English by Olive E. Kenny and Naomi Shihab Nye — was born on this day in 1917:

She was born in Nablus to a literary family; studied English literature at Oxford; and won acclaim and literary prizes for her poetry, in Arabic and in translation.

The poet Abbas Beydoun wrote, after her death, “Fadwa was an original poet in her own right, writing from her own experiences and for her late brothers, Ibrahim Tuqan, the most famous Palestinian poet of the time; and for her second brother, who died in a tragic accident. Fadwa stood up as an Electra in mourning between two dead brothers, shouldering the pain of the family, which we can easily call Palestine. Poetry came to her in the image of the Palestinian fate; ultimately her choice to write poetry was not as important as her real mission, which fell somewhere between that of Joan of Arc and al-Khansa.”

Face Lost in the Wilderness,” From Modem Palestinian Poetry, translated by Patricia Alanah Byrne with the help of the editor [Salma Khadra Jayyusi], and Naomi Shihab Nye.

It opens:

Do not fill postcards with memories
Between my heart and the luxury of passion
stretches a desert where ropes of fire
blaze and smolder, where snakes
coil and recoil, swallowing blossoms
with poison and flame.

Hamza,” translated by Azfar Hussain

It opens:

Hamza was just an ordinary man

like others in my hometown

who work only with their hands for bread. 

A Life,” translated by Azfar Hussain

It opens:

My life is tears
    and a fond heart
longing, a book of poetry and a lute

The Deluge and the Tree,” translated by Naomi Shihab Nye with the help of Salma Khadra Jayyusi.

It opens:

When the hurricane swirled and spread its deluge
of dark evil
onto the good green land
‘They’ gloated. The western skies
reverberated with joyous accounts:

Existence,” translated by Michael R Burch.

It opens:

In solitary life, I was a lost question;

In the encompassing darkness,

my answer was concealed.

And Nothing Remains,” translated by Franklin Huntington

It opens:

We are together tonight,
But you’ll be hidden from me tomorrow
By the cruelty of this life.

I Found It,” translated by Franklin Huntington

It opens:

I found it on a beautiful, sunny day.
I found it after great loss:
Fresh verdant soil,
Wet and flourishing.

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