Monday, October 18, 2004

May I recommend -- Poetry

One of the advantages of being an arab - and there aren't that many advantages to being an arab most of the times in sucks being one - but one of the great things about being an arab is arabic poetry. I speak 4 languages and each one of them is beautiful in its own way. I am not gonna tell you that one language is more beautiful than another, because I think each language contains its own special beauty that needs to be appreciated on its own without comparison to another language. However till this day, arabic poetry has the ability to move me in ways that no other poetry does. The music in the language, the magic in the rhythmic words is enchanting. The problem is how to share arabic poetry with people who don't speak the language. Most of the time when I read arabic poetry translated into English, I feel like I am reading something completely different. Same meaning but the magical part is gone. However there are a few notable exceptions that I would like to share with you.

The first is "The Prophet" By Khalil Gobran. This book is not a translation because Khalil Gobran wrote both the english and arabic versions himself. It took him 3 years to finish it and while he was working on it he carried the manuscript with him everywhere he went. When you read the book you can sense the intensity and measured precision that is contained in each word. I think that both the arabic and english versions are equal.

The second example I would like to share is, a collection of traslations of arabic poetry that samples the best of the best from a long list of poets. Because it is focused on the free verse movement in arabic poetry the translation is easier to capture the intended original effect. I also like that on each page you have the arabic poem in its original form on the left hand side and the english translation on the right handside, so if you speak arabic you can enjoy both. It contains poems by Al Sayaab, Nazek al Malaeka, Ehsaan Abed Al Qudoos and many others.

I would be interested to hear from others about their favorite arab poets or poems.

p.s. normally I get offended when people call me a capitalist pig, but from you Politburo Diktat it is a compliment.


#10/18/2004 09:04:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Anonymous Anonymous

#10/18/2004 09:05:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Anonymous Anonymous

#10/19/2004 12:37:00 am Assalam Aleikom Blogger neurotic_wife

Ihath, I aint really an avid reader of Arabic poetry, but the Prophet by Jibran Khaleel Jibran is by far my favourate. I tend to go for Autobiographies/biographies, or mostly fiction novels all in English ofcourse. But my all time favourate author is paolo coelho. I know you have written about great books in another post so sorry for talking about it here.....

#10/19/2004 01:50:00 am Assalam Aleikom Blogger ihath

Dear Neurotic Wife,
Paulo Coelho has written my favorite book in the world. Here is a post I have written about it.

#10/19/2004 04:54:00 am Assalam Aleikom Blogger Michael

Thanks for the recommendations, ihath. I'll be sure to give them a try. I don't have favorite Arabic poets myself yet, being at a stage where I'm summarily hypnotized by almost any classical poem. Real appreciation of free verse normally comes to me some time later.

I've often been itching to share poetry in this or that language with people who can't read it themselves, but I've stopped trying. It can happen that one great poet puts an encounter with another great poet into words. What results is very rarely a faithful translation, although it can be great poetry. It's a pity that Ezra Pound never learned Arabic. On the other hand, a translator taking a poem and trying to make an earnest translation of it, as is normally the case in English, leaves me underwhelmed, with very rare exceptions. When I'm interested in poetry that I can't even being to read myself, I actually find that I get more out of a good essay about it.

That said, you might want to point those who know German in the direction of Friedrich Rückert's Hamasah. This is an honest-to-god translation of Abu Tammam's anthology and some other poems into verse, but as far as translations of classical Arabic poetry go, Rückert is a head above the rest. Goethe translated an Arabic qasidah just once ("Unter dem Felsen am Wege..." in the "notes" to the West-?stlicher Diwan), which also makes me sad he never became involved with Arabic literature like he did with the Persians.

Also, although not poetry, the most charming encounter between Arabic and Western literatures I know is the translation of Kalilah wa-Dimnah made under the direction of Alfonso the Wise. It's the first major work of prose in Spanish (Castilian) and the only translation from Arabic I enjoy reading independently of the original.

I hope all this was sufficiently useless and esoteric.

#10/19/2004 11:52:00 am Assalam Aleikom Anonymous Anonymous

The Iraqi poetry event which took place in Amsterdam, in OCCII on Sunday the 17th of October, is hearable on-line now at Some cuttings will be done later. Also interviews with some of the poets, a painter, an Iraqi blogger and 'our' free-software developer Jaromil. Enjoy! Cecile

#1/08/2005 02:49:00 am Assalam Aleikom Anonymous Anonymous

The Four Horsemen

The thundering hoof-beat of horses, was heard for miles around
As a U.S. caisson on foreign soil, was for Syria bound
As four horses pulled the limber, the driver would shout their names
‘Cheney’,’Bush’,’Rummy’, and ‘Powell’, as he lashed the leather reins
Corporal Richard Perle drove the team, his whip would sharply crack
Private Wolfowitz rode as shotgun, to guard the drivers back
An English bulldog, nicknamed ‘Blair’, ran at the horse’s side
While General Franks brought up the rear, a white horse he did ride

Now the Iraqi war is over, the mission’s a success
Iraqi’s power and their politics, are in a total mess
The Israeli’s are rejoicing now, the dancing has begun
America’s removed a threat to them, Saddam Hussein is done
Now it’s gallop on to Syria, a Country to beware
Use American boys to do for them, what they would never dare
Threats to Israel must be destroyed, to the last defiant man
So that Nation can grow and prosper, and implement its plan

Now let’s unlock the strong-box, and open the secret drawer
To see what this Israeli Nation, really has in store
The Palestinians all must go, their stones are so unkind
To build a prosperous Nation, Israeli’s need some peace of mind
The Palestinian State won’t be, it will never stand
There are all too many Israeli’s, that need that precious land
Sharon now views the land of Abraham, the father of his flock
He must devise a way to seize it, from the Country of Iraq
- Felix H. Mc Cabe April 25,2003

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