Golan Haji is a Kurdish-Syrian poet, translator, and physician, currently based in Paris. His work appears, in Huda Fakhreddine’s deft translation, in the newly relaunched Middle Eastern Literatures:
Haji is the author of five books of poetry. The poems featured in Middle Eastern Literatures, including the one below, come from his first collection, نادى في الظلمات (He Called Out in the Dark, 2004), which won the Muhammad al-Maghut Prize.
Haji has one dark and startling collection in English, A Tree Whose Name I Don’t Know (2017), which he co-translated with Stephen Watts.
In her introduction to the poems, Fakhreddine excerpts from a discussion Haji had with Italian poet Luigia Sorrentino and Iranian poet Azita Ghahreman. Here, on al-Maghut, Adonis, and Nizar Qabbani:
I respect all of the aforementioned names, but rarely read or reread them. They have become canonical (in the sense that we move from them onwards and not toward them). I’ve almost lost my curiosity about most of them. I might prefer reading the Moroccan poet Abdallah Zrika, the Syrian Nazih abu Afache, the Iraqi Salah Faik or the Egyptian Imad Abu Saleh, who live in their own rich lights and shadows. However, I keep reading classical poets such as al-Maʿarri who lived and died in northwest of Syria, and whose work ‘The Epistle of Forgiveness’ might have influenced Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. Al-Maʿarri and al-Mutanabbi, these two contradictory classical poets, both influenced poets like Khayyam and Rumi.
The poem below is courtesy of Huda Fakhreddine and Middle Eastern Literatures. Find the other seven with the rest of Volume 23:1-2.
THE SAME SILENCE
Your head hangs
on the wall,
a stag head.
A spider thread
fastens your heart
to the book of flesh.
Your mouth reads
the dead wheat stalks
in the still image
on the opposite wall.
Your voice is
a white paper
in your throat.
Why do you yearn only to disintegrate?
إلى كتاب اللحم
لِمَ تهفو كي تتجزّأ؟
More in Middle Eastern Literatures translated by Huda Fakhreddine