Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Keys - Fatma Kandil

Recently I came across the 2001 anthology 'The Poetry of Arab Women', edited by Nathalie Handal. I was a little surprised to realise that it had not once crossed my mind that hitherto, all the Arabic poetry I'd read had been written by men, and also that I had not once reflected on this fact.

So, here is the first of hopefully several poems by Arab women to be posted here.

According to the anthology,
"Egyptian women writers have always played an active role in the growth and evolution of the literary scene, and they continue to do so; and poetry written by Egyptian women poets continues to flourish."
Fatma Kandil was born in Cairo in 1958. A well-known new generation poet and short story writer, she also edits a journal of literary criticism, Fosoul (فصول).


المفاتيح التي لا تفتح الأبواب
هي المفاتيح التي تغلق الأبواب
والمفاتيح المشنوقة في السلاسل
لا تملك إلا دراما الرنين
لكن المفتاح الذي يموت في جيبي
يذكرني بأنه قد آن الوقت لكي أكون إمرأة عاقلة ، تسكن بيتا
بلا مفاتيح . . . . بلا أبواب

The keys that don't open doors
are the keys that lock them,
and keys tangled in chains
have nothing but the drama of jingling.
But the key that dies in my pocket
reminds me it is time
that i became a reasonable woman
who lives in a house
without keys, without doors.

Original translation by Khaled Mattawa, with revision by readers of this blog.


  1. Your Blog is amazing.....very nice're a good poet..thank u so much !!!!!!!!

  2. awesome fatmah !!!!!!!
    well done!!!!!!!!

  3. A couple suggestions

    لا تفتح
    that do not open....
    lock them
    لا تملك إلا دراما الرنين
    do nothing all but jangle/jingle
    يموت في جيبي
    but the "inanimate" key that lies in my pocket

    1. يموت = dies
      لا تملك الا دراما الرنين
      it hasn't got anything except jangle/jingle
      i really surprised that there are some people learning my mother language

    2. Dear readers, many thanks for your comments, which have been used to create a revised translation of the poem.
      Just one question:
      لكن المفتاح الذي يموت في جيبي
      Can you confirm this should not be about dying?

  4. Dear Fatmah,
    It is wonderful , philosophical. You revealed a great truth in a few words.


  5. what is the meaning behind it?
    What is she trying to say with the poem?

    1. She is telling the world numerous females are locked up without freedom in Arab countries, a male dominant world

    2. She is telling the world numerous females are locked up without freedom in Arab countries, a male dominant world

    3. The backwards world of women in Arab countries.

  6. so beautiful written. you are really good poet.