Egyptian artist, poet, and critic Ahmed Morsi’s first collection to appear in English, translated by Raphael Cohen, is set to be published by Banipal Books in September:
The collection, which draws from two of Morsi’s published volumes, is titled Poems of Alexandria and New York.
Morsi, who was born in Alexandria in 1930, has also worked as a translator, set designer, and magazine editor. He was a comrade and colleague of Edwar al-Kharrat and one of the co-founders of the avant-garde magazine Gallerie ’68. In a recent interview with Art Breath, Morsi said of the magazine:
The content of Galerie 68 represented a paradigm shift and each of the contributors paved a path in previously unchartered territory for poetry, short story, essays and criticism in the Arabic language. Besides being its editor-in-chief, I was also the magazine’s art director. The visual selection stood up to the literary content.
The artist added:
Edwar al-Kharrat, [the magazine’s] co-founder, was a member of the Egyptian Communist party in Alexandria as a young man and most of Galerie 68’s contributors had political inclinations – except me. But the devastating effects of the 1967 war in the years that followed forced a reaction from me. I put down my pen. That is how Galerie 68 came to a halt – my poetry as well, for nearly 30 years.
In the same period, Morsi also designed stage sets and costumes for Egyptian playwrights, including Alfred Farag, and published critiques of both art and literature.
Morsi only returned to writing poetry in 2001; according to his website’s biography, this was at the behest of his friend Edwar al-Kharrat.
According to Banipal Books, this forthcoming translated collection:
…comprises two of his best known collections, Pictures from the New York Album and Elegies to the Mediterranean, both written when he resumed writing poetry following a break of nearly 30 years after the calamitous Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War. The former opens up the city of New York, his home since the mid-1970s and where he still lives and works, while the latter takes readers deep into abiding memories of the Mediterranean city of his birth, Alexandria, Egypt, in 1930.
Morsi’s 2019 interview with Art Breath concludes: “Art for me – whether my poetry or paintings – is an expression of my personal experiences; unbounded by time and place. I prefer not to make of art a utility and rather to allow it the utmost freedom to just be.”
The collection will be available September 9, 2021 from Banipal Books.