Friday, March 19, 2010

Sargon Boulos ... wow!

by Sargon Boulus

I found myself in this house
kept by a woman who disappears
throughout the week to roam
along rivers. When she returns,
she moors her boat to my thigh
while I sleep
and drags her mauled body
in heavy silence to my bed.
Animals recently set free
have been growing more ferocious daily
pouncing on children and the sick
in alleys.
There are rumors, other news: they say
a great famine, plague, massacres...

When the dawn arrives
with its carts piled with ammunition
my neighbors bang their heads
against doors,
a sign of complete servility
or unbearable pain.
--translated by sargon boulus and alistair elliot

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab was one of the first of the modernists in Arabic poetry. His work is epic. He was one of the first to introduce the style of free verse to Arabic poetry, and of the Arabic modernists, he was one of the first and certainly one of the best to use mythology, both of his own culture and borrowed from the West, as a metaphor for the inanity of modern existence. He also, bless his heart, translated T.S. Eliot into Arabic.With that aside, his work is ridiculously difficult to find in English translation. There are a few of the more popular pieces, such as "Rain Song" and "Death and the River" that can be found in anthologies. But I need more.Does anyone have any clue where to find more of his work? Or that of Shauqi Abi Shaqra? Or Sargon Boulos?**

**Boulos is infinitely helpful in that he has helped to translate the works of other Arabic poets into English, but finding his own poems in translation is next to impossible.

Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati

There's nothing like an Iraqi poet who writes in honor of Rafael Alberti. And there's a bilingual collection of his work, called LOVE, DEATH, AND EXILE: POEMS TRANSLATED FROM ARABIC. It's an absolutely amazing gathering of his work, with wonderful introduction written by the translator, Bassam K Frangieh. Like Alberti, he writes of Cordoba and Cuba, and it's amazing how he managed to mimic Alberti's distinctive imagery. Here's a snippet:
from: Poems on Separation and Death

The prince of the moon was
Riding the fire horse
On the plains of Spain
Which crawled to the sea,
Carrying his seven sons in his ring.
When he passed through an enchanted garden
A young woman lay in wait for him
Calling his youngest son.
She seduced him with a love spell
Which rendered him mute and
Sealed his eyes with secrets
When he took her,
She took him: he disappeared.

There's another little passage from a piece called "For Rafael Alberti," that sounds like another version of Darwish's "Poetic Regulations:"
From my poetry I inherited: this deadly poverty,
This love, this flame, this murderous sword
With which my throat will be cut one day
For my support of the poor.

And, as an added bonus, the book is printed as a mirror-text, with one side in Arabic and the facing page translated into English.