Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Desert (The Diary of Beirut Under Siege, 1982) - Extracts

Adonis aka Ali Ahmar Said Asbar was born in 1930 in Syria. After 6 months in jail for his political leanings he moved to Beirut in 1956. He now lives in Paris. Extracts from 'The Desert' are below. 


لم نعد نتلاقى 
لم يعد بيننا غير نبذٍ نفيٍ
  ,و المواعيد ماتت، و مات الفضاء 
.وحدة الموت صار اللقاء


We no longer meet, 
Rejection and exile keep us apart.
The promises are dead, space is dead,
Death alone has become our meeting point. 


,أغلق الباب، لا ليقيِّد أفراحه  
. ليحرِّر أحزانه   ...

He shuts the door
Not to trap his joy,
...but to free his grief

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Confession in the Midday Sun

One more by Samih Al-Qasim...

إعتراف في عز الظهيرة

أنا غرست الشجرة
أنا احتقرت الثمرة
أنا احتطبت جذعها
أنا صنعت العود
أنا عزفت اللحن

أنا كسرت العود
أنا افتقدت الثمرة
أنا افتقدت اللحن
أنا...بكيت الشجرة

I planted the tree
I scorned the fruit
I took its trunk as firewood
I made the Oud
I played a tune

I broke the Oud
I lost the fruit
I lost the tune
I...mourned the tree

(own translation)

An interview with three leading Palestinian poets here, accompanied by a short report about al-Qasim here.

The Wall Clock

Another by Samih al-Qasim

ساعة الحائط

مدينتي إنهارت
و ظلت ساعة الحائط
و حينا إنهار
و ظلت ساعة الحائط
و الشارع إنهار
و ظلت ساعة الحائط
و الساحة إنهارت
و ظلت ساعة الحائط
و منزلي إنهار
و ظلت ساعة الحائط
الحائط إنهار
و ظلت...
ساعة الحائط

My city collapsed
The wall clock remained
Our neighbourhood collapsed
The wall clock remained
The street collapsed
The wall clock remained
The square collapsed
The wall clock remained
My home collapsed
The wall clock remained
The wall collapsed
On went
The clock

(my own translation)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Letter From Under The Sea

Nizar Qabbani (1923-88) was a Syrian diplomat and poet. He is one of the most famous Arab poets. He is a controversial figure as he tackles such subjects as mysticism and feminism in his poetry.
رسالة من تحت الماء

إن كنتَ صديقي.. ساعِدني
كَي أرحَلَ عَنك..
أو كُنتَ حبيبي.. ساعِدني
كَي أُشفى منك
لو أنِّي أعرِفُ أنَّ الحُبَّ خطيرٌ جِدَّاً
ما أحببت
لو أنِّي أعرفُ أنَّ البَحرَ عميقٌ جِداً
ما أبحرت..
لو أنِّي أعرفُ خاتمتي
ما كنتُ بَدأت...
إشتقتُ إليكَ.. فعلِّمني
أن لا أشتاق
علِّمني كيفَ أقُصُّ جذورَ هواكَ من الأعماق
علِّمني كيف تموتُ الدمعةُ في الأحداق
علِّمني كيفَ يموتُ القلبُ وتنتحرُ الأشواق
إن كنتَ قويَّاً.. أخرجني
من هذا اليَمّ..
فأنا لا أعرفُ فنَّ العوم
الموجُ الأزرقُ في عينيك.. يُجرجِرُني نحوَ الأعمق
وأنا ما عندي تجربةٌ
في الحُبِّ .. ولا عندي زَورَق
إن كُنتُ أعزُّ عليكَ فَخُذ بيديّ
فأنا عاشِقَةٌ من رأسي حتَّى قَدَمَيّ
إني أتنفَّسُ تحتَ الماء..
إنّي أغرق..

Letter from under the sea 

If you are my me
   To leave you...
   Or if you are my me
   So that I may be cured of you
Had I known love was so perilous
I wouldn't have loved
Had I know the ocean was so deep
I wouldn't have set sail...
Had I known my end
I wouldn't have begun...
   I long for teach me
   Not to long
   Teach me
   How to cut the roots of your affection from their depths
   Teach me
   How tears may perish in the eyes
   Teach me
   How the heart may die and yearning may end
If you're a prophet...release me
From this spell...
From this blasphemy
Your love is cleanse me
From this blasphemy...
If you are strong...pull me out
Of this open sea...
As I don't know how to swim
   The blue waves in your eyes...drag me to the depths
   I'm untried
   In love...and I have no raft...
If I am dear to you...then take me by the hand
I am filled with desire from head to toe
I'm drowning...

(my own translation)

Like many Arabic poems, 'A letter from under the sea' is also well-known in song form. See the famous Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez performing it here and here. 

Monday, 22 November 2010

Cut Lip (or, Slit Lips)

Another poem by Samih al-Qasim:

الشفة المقصوصة
كان في ودي أن أسمعكم
قصة عن عندليب ميت
كان في ودي أن أسمعكم
لو لم يقصوا شفتي!

It was a wish of mine to tell you
A story of a dead nightingale
It was a wish of mine to tell you
...The story
!Were it not for this lip they cut

(my own translation)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Travel Tickets

Samih al-Qasim (b.1939) is a Palestinian Druze poet living in Haifa.

تذاكر سفر

وعندما أٌقتَل في يومٍ من الأيام
سيَعثُر القاتل في جيبي
على تذاكِرِ السفر:
واحدة الى السلام
واحدة الى الحقول والمطر
الى ضمائر البشر
ارجوك الّا تُهمِل التذاكر )
يا قاتلي العزيز
(..ارجوك ان تسافر
Travel Tickets

On the day you kill me
You'll find in my pocket
Travel tickets
To peace,
To the fields and the rain,
To people's conscience.
Don't waste the tickets.

(translation Abdullah al-Udhari)

I highly recommend this book for a selection of his works: 'Victims of a Map: A Bilingual Anthology of Arabic Poetry'

An interesting interview with him here.

I really love his poetry so I'll post some more soon.

This poem is very special to me. I've memorised it and it's become almost like a prayer. I recite it to myself sometimes. To me it says that our actions and the actions of others - whether good or bad - make us who we are. It tells me that when we part from a loved one, however difficult the circumstances, we should learn the maximum possible from the situation. We should always treasure the love and positive energy offered to us, and use it to take us forward.