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Poetry

September Culture Bouquet

[Safwan Dahoul,

Almost a decade ago, Saadi Youssef began his poem "Imru' al-Qays' Grandson" by asking: "Is it your fault that once you were born in that country? / Three quarters of a century / and you still pay from your ebbing blood / its tax." He ended the poem with an even more vexing question: "What is it to you / now when you are asked to do the impossible?" As this long hot summer ends, we would not be mistaken to imagine these lines could be about Gaza, Mosul, or Ferguson. Maymanah Farhat contributes a recent essay from a monograph on Syrian painter Khaled Takreti. Excerpts from Khalil Sweileh's Barbarians' Paradise, trans. ...

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Samih al-Qasim: The Last Train

[Image of Letter from Rashid Hussein to Samih al-Qasim, May 18, 1970]

[The late Palestinian poet, Samih al-Qasim, was also a talented essayist, writing regularly in the Arabic-language press of Palestine/Israel. He was also a compelling orator and correspondent. The collection of his letters with Mahmoud Darwish is a uniquely great accomplishment of modern epistolary literature. Al-Qasim's correspondence with Rashid Hussein is slim by comparison, yet this 1990 "letter"—addressed on the thirteenth anniversary of Hussein's tragic death—stands out.] Rashid, my brother — Believe it or not, but after all this time separated from one another, you may find it hard to recognize me when you stand there on the station platform, waiting ...

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من إنجيل العراق الضائع

[اللوحة للفنان السوري يوسف عبدلكي]

عراقنا الذي في الهباءاتِ، ليَتَقَدّسِ اسْمُكَ، ليأتِ جحيمكَ، لتكُنْ مشيئتُكَ، كما في السماء كذلك على الأرض. موتنا كفافنا أعطِنا كلّ يومٍ. ولا تغفر لنا خياناتنا، لأننا لا نغفر لمن خاننا. ولا تدخلنا في التجربة، فقد تعبنا. . . آمين  

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منام الطفل السنجاريّ

[اللوحة بعنان

منام الطفل السنجاري* هو الذي رأى كل شيء. هو الذي رأى، قبل أن ينام، جدّته تتضرّع إلى الله بيديها وشفتيها المشقّقتين. ولم يفهم لماذا لم يستجب ذاك الذي في الأعالي. هل تبخّرت الكلمات في طريقها إلى الأذن الإلهية؟ هل كان على جدّته أن تتضرّع بصوت أعلى؟ هل. . . ؟ هو الذي رأى كلّ شيء. هو الذي رأى، طيراً سماويّاً يأتي من كبد السماء. يهبط ببطء وكأن قمّة الجبل عشّه، وكأنّه صغيره. احتضنه واحتضن جدّته بحنوّ ثم حملهما، ومن معهما، وأخذ يرفرف بجناحيه العظيمين. هو الذي رأى كل شيء. هو الذي رأى. . . رجلاً ملثّماً يقف في كابوس الطفل الذي كان ينام بجانبه. رآه يطلق حمماً تحرق الطير السماوي وتسقطه في منامه. هو الذي رأى. . .    * أو الموصلي. . . أو

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Khalil Al-Sakakini: A Profile from the Archives

[Khalil Al-Sakakini]

[”A Profile from the Archives“ is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.] Name: Khalil Last Name: Al-Sakakini Father’s Name: Qostandi Date of Birth: 1878 Date of Death: 1953 Place of Birth: Jerusalem Nationality: Palestinian Category: Author Profession: Writer and journalist Khalil Al-Sakakini   Palestinian national. Born on 23 January 1878 in ...

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Ahmed Fouad Negm: A Profile from the Archives

[Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm]

[”A Profile from the Archives“  is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.] Name: Ahmed Fouad Last Name: Negm Father’s Name: Muhammad Izzat Mother’s Name: Hanem Morsi Date of Birth: 1929 Place of Birth: Kfoor Negm Nationality: Egyptian Children: Nawara / Zainab / Afaf Category: Author Profession: Poet     Ahmed Fouad Negm   Born on 22 May 1929 ...

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Saadi Yousef: At Kerak Citadel

[Saadi Yousef: Image from Wikimedia]

 At Kerak Citadel   Always, at sunset, the castle walls begin to breathe. The war is over—it has been two or twenty centuries now. But then suddenly when night falls, the war comes back. Soldiers in their towers light their candle, far from the gusting wind And alone, they cry to themselves. The Messenger will come. Most definitely he will come, carrying his head on the tip of a spear. Perhaps he was exhausted and, in his long wait, forgot that spears blossom in the morning. Do you think he will wake up? The soldiers in the tower, The candle slowly fading, the morning that has not come, And the he-will-arrive Messenger, his head fixed on a pike, He ...

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Port Said in the Evening, Port Said in the Morning

[El Tanbura. Image from Cairo 360.]

On Sunday, 1 May, 2005, on the eve of Sham al-Nessim, five decidedly non-mainstream musical groups celebrated the age-old Egyptian holiday before an audience of nearly five hundred people. Most of the audience members were from the cities along the Suez Canal and Cairo. State media was conspicuously absent; there was no one covering the event except us – and a photographer from a local Port Said newspaper. Like a religious sect celebrating long-forsaken rites, or the remaining members of an ethnic minority gathering to evoke the souls of their ancestors, the concert’s participants had abandoned the nearby annual folk festival (which took place during the day in the ...

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Muhammad al-Maghut: Roman Amphitheaters

[Muhammad al-Maghut. Image from Youtube.]

Roman Amphitheaters Muhammad al-Maghut   1. Nothing is left of the revolution’s bells save echoes Nor of poetry’s horse save the bridle Nor of freedom’s road save fixed and flying checkpoints I have spent my childhood, youth and the entire length of the march to freedom and liberation, amid rifles, machine guns, chains, tanks, armored vehicles, armed patrols and combat air patrols, while every other step: Stop: ID Stop: Papers Stop: Passport Stop: What do you have in your suitcase? Stop: What do you have in your pockets? Stop: What do you have in your mouth? Stop: Where are you going? Stop: Where do you come from? Whenever I wanted to jump over this ...

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Fadwa Toukan: A Profile from the Archives

[Palestinian poet Fadwa Toukan, source of picture: Wikipedia]

["A Profile from the Archives“  is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.] Name: Fadwa Last Name: Toukan Father’s name: Abul Fattah Agha Toukan Mother’s name: Fawzieh Amin Baik Date of birth: 1917 Date of death: 2003 Nationality: Palestinian Category: Author Profession: Poet   Fadwa Toukan    Was a Palestinian national who held ...

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Adunis, Mistranslated (Part One)

[Adunis. Image by Mariusz Kubik, from Wikipedia]

Adonis, Selected Poems. Translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010. Adunis (1930-) is one of the most influential and dominant Arab poets of the modern era and a perennial Nobel contender since the late 1980s. A number of his individual works have been ably translated into English in previous decades by Mirene Ghossein and Kamal Boullata, Samuel Hazo, and Shawkat Toorawa. More recently, Adnan Haydar and Michael Beard translated his most powerful and enduring work, Aghani Mihyar al-Dimashqi (Songs of Mihyar the Damascene) (1961). However, a panoramic work of selections spanning Adunis’s entire oeuvre and development ...

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Mahmoud Darwish: My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

While his readers were celebrating his birthday on the 13th of March, the authorities at the Riyad Book Fair confiscated Mahmoud Darwish’s books after members of the Committee for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue complained about “blasphemous passages.” One poem from his 1986 collection Fewer Roses was particularly infuriating as shown in this video. Here is a translation of the poem; a salute to the ever present Darwish and to the freedom of reading.   Mahmoud Darwish My god why have you forsaken me?   My god, my god, why have you forsaken me? Why did you wed Mary? Why did you promise the soldiers my only orchard, why? I am the widow. I am ...

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Samih al-Qasim: I Will Engrave Our Names on the Wind

[While well-known as a poet, the late Samih al-Qasim was also a talented essayist, writing regularly in the Arabic-language press of Palestine/Israel. He was also a remarkable public speaker and letter writer. Over a period of two years—from May 1986 to May 1988—al-Qasim exchanged a series of extraordinary letters with Mahmoud Darwish. The letters are monuments to poetry and language and also friendship and love and, not surprisingly considering the authors, contain some of the most moving ...

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Samih al-Qasim: Two Poems

1. “RAFAH’S CHILDREN” (1971) To the one who digs his path through the wounds of millions To he whose tanks crush all the roses in the garden Who breaks windows in the night Who sets fire to a garden and museum and sings of freedom. Who stomps on songbirds in the public square. Whose planes drop bombs on childhood’s dream. Who smashes rainbows in the sky.   Tonight, the children of the impossible roots have an announcement for you, Tonight, the children of Rafah say: “We have never woven ...

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Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab: A Profile from the Archives

[”A Profile from the Archives“ is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.] Name: Badr Last Name: Al-Sayyab Father’s Name: Shakir Mother’s Name: Karimah Al-Sayyab Place of Birth: Jekor Date of Birth: 1925 Date of ...

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Kateb Yacine: A Profile from the Archives

[”A Profile from the Archives“ is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.] Name: Kateb Last Name: Yacine Date of Birth: 1929 Date of Death: 1989 Place of Birth: Smondo - Constantine Wife’s Name: Zobaida ...

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July Culture Bouquet

July has been quite eventful and cruel. Neymar is out and the Caliphate is in and on. And we have a colorful bouquet for our readers. Elliot Colla examines the military-literary complex and the pervasive network of embedded iterature. Sonja Mejcher-Atassi curates a conversation between Charif KIwan and Akra Zaatarai. Jonathan Wright translates an excerpt from Amjad Nasser's novel, Land of No Rain. Soraya Morayef interviews Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa. Gelare Khoshgozaran reflects on Nooshin Rostami's ...

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Sheikh Imam: A Profile from the Archives

[”A Profile from the Archives“ is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.]  Name: Imam Muhammad Last Name: Issa Father’s Name: Ahmed Date of Birth: 1918 Date of Death: ...

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Embedded Poetry: Iraq; Through a Soldier's Binoculars

Critics and reviewers greeted Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005) with effusive and unanimous praise. His poems were read as “dispatches from a place more incomprehensible than the moon. . . observations we would never find in a Pentagon press release.” I read the poems back then and was not impressed or moved. I was not surprised that these poems would elicit such praise. Although they were read and were circulating in a climate of timid, but rising opposition to the war (not for the ...

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Sargon Boulus: An Attempt to Reach Beirut by Sea

An Attempt to Reach Beirut by Sea Sargon Boulus   One distant evening while I smuggle a fountain through the wreckage or bribe a night with a mediocre poem You bleed in the cold trenches of the ceasefire from your thousand battlefronts I wanted to lay out a path with a carpet of my breaths to where you still stand Your barricade a dove’s skeleton Your face a wounded paradise I wanted to burn a little between your hands No place dreams of my arrival and Life My frightened ...

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Badr Shakir al-Sayyab: Whorehouse

Whorehouse By Badr Shakir al-Sayyab   Baghdad? It’s a giant whorehouse. The singing girl’s glances Like a clock ticking on the wall In a train station departures hall. O corpse flung on the ground, Its worms are a wave of flame and silk.   Baghdad’s a nightmare, a rotten ruin Swallowed up by someone sleeping. Hours are days there, days are years, and a year is toil. A year is a wound boiling in the conscience.   Oryx eyes between Rusafah and the Bridge Are bullet holes ...

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Three Poems by Ahmad Shamlou

Three Poems Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000) Translated from the Persian by Sheida Dayani   The Secret A secret was with me; I told the mountain. A secret was with me; I told the well.   On the lengthy path, Alone and lonesome, I told the black horse I told the stones…   With my old secret At last I arrived. I uttered no words You uttered no words; I was shedding tears You were shedding tears. Then I sealed my lips You read from my eyes...   The Fish Never ...

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قصائد رلى الجردي

  قصائد رلى الجردي     سريرُ النّارنجِ  أنا سريرُ النّارنجِ وهو يستفيق أتحلّى بالخناجرِ واسمي سوريَّة أنا طلاءُ الأرضِ والخبزُ المنفجرُفي الأفواهِ،  الجدران المجدَّلةُ  أنا اخضرارها أغرقُ بحِنّائي أنا أوردةٌ بنَفْس اللونِ بِذاتِ الطّول لا أفصلُ عيناً عن عين ولا جلدًا عن جلد لا أشبهُ الفصولَ أستعيرُ ضلوعَ الطّوفانِ

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محمود درويش: إلهي لماذا تخلّيت عنّي؟

بينما كان قراؤه، شرقاً وغرباً، يحتفلون بذكرى ميلاده في الثالث عشر من آذار، صادرت إدارة معرض الرياض للكتاب دواوين محمود درويش (1941-2008) بعد اعتراض محتسبين من هيئة الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر على ما وصفوه بعبارات ”زندقة وكفر وإلحاد.“ ويبدو أن قصيدة ”إلهي لماذا تخلّيت عني؟“ من ديوان ”ورد أقل“ كانت القصيدة التي أغضبت المحتسبين كما يظهر الفديو أدناه. نعيد نشر القصيدة هنا مع ترجمة بالانكليزية تحية للشاعر الغائب الحاضر ولحرية القراءة. وشملت مذبحة المنع والمصادرة ٤٢٠ كتاباً ”مخالفاً“ في كافة الحقول، ومن ...

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