Friday Finds: Five Poems by Qassim Haddad

Huda Fakhreddine, Roger Allen & Hatem al-Zahrani collaborated on translations of five poems by Qassim Haddad that originally appeared in Middle Eastern Literatures in 2018, and are now available to a wider public:

The poems come from Haddad’s first poetry collection, al-Bishara (The Omen), which appeared in 1970; he has since published more than a dozen more.

He has one collection in English, translated by Ferial Ghazoul and John Verlenden: The Chronicles of Majnun Layla and Other Poems.

Qassim Haddad

In Middle Eastern Literatures, Fakhreddine, Allen, and al-Zahrani write of the poems they have translated: “The poems that follow showcase Haddād’s poetic experimentation. Ranging from the lineated metered or unmetered text to the prose block, these poems reveal Haddād’s pre-occupation with form, which remains unresolved even in the prose pieces.”

The final poem “The violins,” was translated by Hatem al-Zahrani, and opens with a command: “Say something to the violins[.]”

The poem doesn’t go on to tell us what exactly we should say to the violins. Rather, it addresses the question of why we should talk to them at all: “Maybe the words will tell them that we are strangers/ and that music delays us/ and within us is dance, enough to set the entire city asway.”

The music is somewhere inside us, the narrative voice hopes. “And if our despair doesn’t melt away,/ (at least) the violins feel that we have understood[.]”

Read all five poems online.