New in Translation: ‘Song of Myself’ by Ghareeb Iskander

Poet Ghareeb Iskander — whose English Poetry and Modern Arabic Verse: Translation and Modernity is forthcoming in February 2021 — shares his “Song of Myself” in Arabic and in an English translation by scientist and playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak:

Song of Myself

By Ghareeb Iskander

Translated from the Arabic by Hassan Abdulrazzak

أغنية نفسي


أريدُ أن أكون مثل ويتمان

شاعراً فقط لا غير

أسْمعُ الناسَ نبوءة الحياة

لذائذَ السماء فقط

لا آلام الجحيم!


I want to be like Whitman

A poet only.

Delivering to people the prophecy of life

The pleasures of heaven only

Not the pains of hell

أريدُ أن أكون مثله تماماً

ارتدي قبعتي التي اشتريتها

من كامدن ماركت بلندن

لا أحب اللحى الطويلة

لكنني كي أصبح مثله

سأطلق لحيتي

وأرتدي ثياباً تليق بهذا الربيع.


I want to be just like him

I wear my hat that I bought

From Camden Market in LondonI don’t like long beards

But just to be like him

I will grow my beard

and wear clothes which suit this spring.



عندما اخْضرَّ العشبُ أخيراً

فاضت زرقة البحر  

كأعماق الماضي

أوجه متعددة للحب 

لكن القصيدة واحدة

ضئيلة فكرة قيامتي

كما ترى

وليس لي ميراث سوى الأجراس

أفقدها صباحاً مع آدم

لأجدها مساء مع حواء.


When the grass finally became green

The sea flooded with blueness  

Like the depths of the past

There are multiple faces of love

But only a single poem

The idea of my resurrection is insufficient

As you can see

I have no inheritance but bells

I lose them in the morning with Adam

To find them in the evening with Eve.


مررتُ اليوم بكامدن

هنا بلندن

حيث أقيمُ مؤقتاً

تذكرتُ اقامتَكَ الأبدية


بكامدن البعيدة

بنيو جيرسي.


Today, I passed through Camden

In London

Where I live temporarily

I remembered your eternal stay

Over there

In Camden,

New Jersey.


سأتكلمُ مثلكَ عن الفرح  

الذي تدوّنُهُ الكلمة

عن آمال قصيدتكَ العظيمة:

أغنية نفسي“.

أصواتٌ عديدة خرساء

سأحررُها الآن

سأحررُ أيضاً

الحروفُ العاشقة

التي تختنق في فمي.

I will speak of joy like you

Set down in the word

I will speak of your great poem:

Song of Myself and its hopes.

There are silent voices inside me.

I will free them now

I will free also

The letters of love words

Suffocated in my mouth.


Hassan Abdulrazzak is an author of Iraqi origin, born in Prague and living in London. His plays include Baghdad Wedding (Soho Theatre, 2007), The Prophet (Gate Theatre, 2012), Love, Bombs and Apples (Arcola Theatre, 2016) and And Here I Am (Shubbak, 2017). He is the recipient of the George Devine, Meyer-Whitworth and Pearson theatre awards as well as the Arab British Centre Award for Culture.

Ghareeb Iskander is an Iraqi poet living in London. He published serval books including A Chariot of Illusion (Exiled Writers Ink, London 2009); Gilgamesh’s Snake and Other Poems, a bilingual collection, which won Arkansas University’s Arabic Translation Award for 2015 (Syracuse University Press, New York 2016); English Poetry and Modern Arabic Verse: Translation and Modernity (I. B. Tauris, London 2021). He was the featured writer of Scottish Pen in 2014. Ghareeb received his PhD from SOAS, University of London in comparative literature with an emphasis on literary translation.