A new movement is emerging in Egyptian literature—urban in its energies; cosmopolitan in its national, Arabic, and western influences; and independent and rowdy in its voice. For centuries, Arabic literature mandated traditional, unchanging, highly structured language and forms. In the 1960s and 1970s, writers rebelled to write in a variety of vernaculars. Now, young Egyptian poets are inventing new ways of writing. Rejecting both traditional Arabic formalism and the vernacular rebellion—and, contradictorily, drawing equally on these traditions and others—they radically combine and recombine influences and bring new experiences into their poetry. They embrace experimentation. Rejected at first by the literary establishment, these poets founded their own magazines, one of which appropriated a derisive term that had been used to dismiss them: Locusts. Now one of Egypt's most honored translators and writers has joined with one of those Locusts to gather a selection of this postmodern writing in one place for the first time. With its edginess and play of styles, this collection showcases a dynamic, emergent scene.
Baghdad: The City in Verse
Reuven Snir Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PJ8047.B25B34 2013 | Dewey Decimal 892.710083585675
Baghdad: The City in Verse captures the essence of life lived in one of the world's great enduring metropolises. In this unusual anthology, Reuven Snir offers original translations of more than 170 Arabic poems--most of them appearing for the first time in English--which represent a cross-section of genres and styles from the time of Baghdad's founding in the eighth century to the present day. The diversity of the fabled city is reflected in the Bedouin, Muslim, Christian, Kurdish, and Jewish poets featured here, including writers of great renown and others whose work has survived but whose names are lost to history.
Through the prism of these poems, readers glimpse many different Baghdads: the city built on ancient Sumerian ruins, the epicenter of Arab culture and Islam's Golden Age under the enlightened rule of Harun al-Rashid, the bombed-out capital of Saddam Hussein's fallen regime, the American occupation, and life in a new but unstable Iraq. With poets as our guides, we visit bazaars, gardens, wine parties, love scenes (worldly and mystical), brothels, prisons, and palaces. Startling contrasts emerge as the day-to-day cacophony of urban life is juxtaposed with eternal cycles of the Tigris, and hellish winds, mosquitoes, rain, floods, snow, and earthquakes are accompanied by somber reflections on invasions and other catastrophes.
Documenting the city's 1,250-year history, Baghdad: The City in Verse shows why poetry has been aptly called the public register of the Arabs.
This selection of Hassan Najmi’s poems, translated by Mbarek Sryfi and Eric Sellin, provides an excellent introduction to the work of one of Morocco’s foremost poets and to a school of modern verse emerging in the Arab World. Scenes of late night cityscapes, lonely interiors, awe-inspiring desert wastes, and seaside vistas are found within the exquisitely subtle lyric moods and nuances of Najmi’s ars poetica, providing insight into the geographical, political, and linguistic ferment that have made Morocco an exciting hub of creative activity in the twenty-first century.
My Heart Became a Bomb
Poems by Ramy al-Asheq; translated by Levi Thompson University of Texas Press, 2021 Library of Congress PJ7910.L27M9 2021 | Dewey Decimal 892.717
My Heart Became a Bomb is the first collection of poetry by Syrian-Palestinian poet Ramy al-Asheq to be translated into English. Poignant and raw, these poems take the reader along a path of forced emigration from Bashar al-Assad’s prisons in Syria to Amsterdam to Auschwitz to Berlin, Germany, where Al-Asheq is now creating a new home. By turns melancholy and reflective, celebratory and hopeful, Al-Asheq’s newly translated poems offer the English-reading audience a contemporary perspective on the experience of exile in a world facing the phenomeno of mass migration, whether for political or environmental reasons. The translations are the result of a long collaboration between Al-Asheq and Thompson (who also edited this collection). Raising questions about the nature of love, identity, and the role of poetry in the face of constant flux and great uncertainty, My Heart Became a Bomb introduces an important new voice to the world of contemporary poetry.
Now reaching its 200th anniversary, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s sequence of poems, the West-Eastern Divan serves as the inspiration for this new collection poems by twenty-four international poets. Goethe’s original work shows the poet looking east from his homeland of Germany to build a collection of writing inspired by the poetic traditions of Persia. In twelve books, Goethe writes on a variety of great poetic themes, including love, humor, parables, and paradise. Over the years since its original publication in 1819, the Divan has served as inspiration for a variety of literary, theoretical, and musical responses. A New Divan revisits Goethe’s work in a lively celebration of cross-cultural exchange. Works by twelve poets from the East and twelve from the West respond to the themes laid out in Goethe’s Divan and build bridges between cultures, nationalities, and languages. The poets have been paired to write in response to each of the twelve books of the Divan, and here present their multi-lingual works in eleven different languages, each with a poetic interpretation written in English. Three pairs of essays complement and shed further light on the series of poetic exchanges. These writings mirror the original notes that Goethe included in his West-Eastern Divan.
Reaching through time, language, and poetic history, A New Divan offers a lyrical conversation and opens paths of connection across cultures.
Since 2002, at least 775 men have been held in the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to Department of Defense data, fewer than half of them are accused of committing any hostile act against the United States or its allies. In hundreds of cases, even the circumstances of their initial detainment are questionable.
This collection gives voice to the men held at Guantánamo. Available only because of the tireless efforts of pro bono attorneys who submitted each line to Pentagon scrutiny, Poems from Guantánamo brings together twenty-two poems by seventeen detainees, most still at Guantánamo, in legal limbo.
If, in the words of Audre Lorde, poetry “forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change,” these verses—some originally written in toothpaste, others scratched onto foam drinking cups with pebbles and furtively handed to attorneys—are the most basic form of the art.
Death Poem by Jumah al Dossari
Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.
Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.
And let them bear the guilty burden before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors or peace."
Jumah al Dossari is a thirty-three-year old Bahraini who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than five years. He has been in solitary confinement since the end of 2003 and, according to the U.S. military, has tried to kill himself twelve times while in custody.
Poetic Justice is the first anthology of contemporary Moroccan poetry in English. The work is primarily composed of poets who began writing after Moroccan independence in 1956 and includes work written in Moroccan Arabic (darija), classical Arabic, French, and Tamazight.
Why Poetic Justice? Moroccan poetry (and especially zajal, oral poetry now written in Moroccan Arabic) is often published in newspapers and journals and is thus a vibrant form of social commentary; what’s more, there is a law, a justice, in the aesthetic act that speaks back to the law of the land. Poetic Justice because literature has the power to shape the cultural and moral imagination in profound and just ways.
Reading this oeuvre from independence until the new millennium and beyond, it is clear that what poet Driss Mesnaoui calls the “letters of time” have long been in the hands of Moroccan poets, as they write their ethics, their aesthetics, as well as their gendered and political lives into poetic being.
Arabs have traditionally considered classical Arabic poetry, together with the Qur'an, as one of their supreme cultural accomplishments. Taking a comparatist approach, Jaroslav Stetkevych attempts in this book to integrate the classical Arabic lyric into an enlarged understanding of lyric poetry as a genre.
Stetkevych concentrates on the "places of lost bliss" that furnish the dominant motif in the lyric-elegiac opening section (nasib) of the classic Arab code, or qusidah. In defining the Arabic lyrical genre, he shows how pre-Islamic lamentations over abandoned campsites evolved, in Arabo-Islamic mystical poetry, into expressions of spiritual nostalgia. Stetkevych also draws intriguing parallels between the highlands of Najd in Arabic poetry and Arcadia in the European tradition. He concludes by exploring the degree to which the pastoral-paradisiacal archetype of the nasib pervades Arabic literary perception, from the pre-Islamic ode through the Thousand and One Nights and later texts.
Enhanced by Stetkevych's sensitive translations of all the Arabic texts discussed, The Zephyrs of Najd brings the classical Arabic ode fully into the purview of contemporary literary and critical discourse.