Sara Elkamel: Two Poems

Alfred Wallis, St. Ives, 1928. Source: tate.org.uk

[Architecture]

To build something together one last time
there are so many questions,
like who would live there,
and if no one, why build it?

In our panic we make a house
that looks like a boat,
which reminds me of dreaming
both of us were angels, sleeping at sea.

When we lay the boat down
in the cemetery of love,
we squat over one of its three windows,
and wave to ourselves through the glass.

 

 

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Rana Haddad: from “The Unexpected Love Objects of Dunya Noor”

The customers of Café Taba were tapping their feet on the floor, up and down, following the beats of the hakawati’s song.

The hakawati gulped his third glass of tea, and then continued to sing in his alluring voice, which gave his audience goose pimples, making even the stoniest hearted of them almost want to cry.

No one knew why.

None of the audience could take their eyes off him, nor could they stop listening to every word and every syllable he uttered even though they were sure that he knew nothing about love. He was clearly too young and too vain and had never suffered. Even Dunya was sure of it. None of them could fully or even partially understand the theories he was trying to peddle through the vehicle of his songs. How could Fear be the opposite of Love? Wasn’t Hate its eternal enemy and opposite? The hakawati was talking nonsense, trying to be clever, they were sure of that. Even Dunya who thought of herself (relatively speaking) as an expert on the theories of love and its manifold manifestations did not understand. But none of them really cared whether he was right or wrong because what they loved about him most of all were not his stories, or his theories, nor his rhymes—but the voice in which he sang them. Perhaps in Europe or America people could follow their hearts, some of the men reasoned. But here, in the conservative Republic of Syria, Fear was the master. Fear held everything and everyone under its sway, and everyone respectfully bowed their heads to it.

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Conor Bracken Translates the late Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine: from “Scorpionic Sun”

Mars, Aries and Scorpio from the Wellcome Collection’s Persian Manuscript 373. Source: wellcomecollection.org

 

Gennevilliers

 

They got to know each other in Paris between two smoking faces which it was said were fired blanks. The machine guns launched black and yellow texts onto the café terraces. Ancestral huts and migraines crucified the gossiping sun of a late autumn in which convalescents were stretching out electrified limbs. One spoke adroitly about these rhymes bees of inconsistent blondeness. They weren’t listening or pretended not to hear. In their navel rooted the reign of a sphecoid wasp-star which itched throughout the discussion. They were anxious to go home however their legs had become the sole emblem of a museum of the nearby desert. They broke their ribs several times in the middle of the terrace. At a neighboring table the devil applied his makeup. At that very moment a tom-tom unleashed a drumbeat inside their stomachs and inexhaustible molecules. In their left lung Zodiac howled; and Time, whom one never meant to interrupt, plummeted incontinent and sat on their sentences, chewing them like birdshit. Time fled past the trashcans. Zodiac partied hard with long and bloody fireflies.

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To Make a Sound: Caroline Stockford Interviews küçük İskender (Derman İskender Över)

Murat Palta, “Crime and Punishment” as an Ottoman miniature. Source: behance.net

Every morning when I wake up, I sit cross-legged, light a cigarette and plan something new

– küçük İskender, Semih Gümüş interview

 

He was the enfant terrible of Turkish poetry.  Gay man and performer who studied medicine and psychology before earning his entire living from poetry.  Author of 24 books of poetry, küçük İskender was the voice of Istanbul’s underground and underbelly, Beyoğlu: voice of the junkies, trannies, the suicidal and the broken-hearted.  He was a film enthusiast, who wanted his film library to be turned into a foundation.  A fan of Kurt Cobain, Kafka and Mayakovsky, Iskender would sit in his smoky basement in Beyoğlu, beer in hand, and hold forth with histories of film, hair-raising stories of literally fatal love affairs and the darker side of Istanbul.

Born Derman İskender Över in 1964, he went by the name “küçük İskender” which means ‘Little Alexander”, a nod at the poet Iskender Pala, who in his mind would be “Alexander the Great”.

He was, without doubt, Turkey’s most prolific and inventive poet of the post-80s scene. He was the scene.

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Akpa Arinzechukwu: Three Poems

Riley Montana by Chris Colls, W Magazine. Source: wmagazine.com

riley montana slaps the runway

behind the scene it is 30°C

the same temperature a body doesn’t need

to start decomposing—

the body sashays away in a blue blazer

catwalks to a stop in a dirndl

hundred irises of a palazzo

& when the body stops it stops only

to let the world have a view of itself through the bow-bridge of legs

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Caroline Stockford: Manual for mourning a great poet

Hüseyin Özdemir, küçük İskender, 2006. Source: instagram.com/huseyinozdemir1

“Because life is the most tragic, most magnificent, most merciless trick death can play on us.”

küçük İskender, “Someone Call an Ambulance”

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1.

When you first hear of his illness, you should be in the company of a genius journalist at seven at night and still at work. Upon going into the underwater world of shock, you should walk with said visiting journalist to the fountain that the ravens frequent in Vienna’s Volksgarten. Sit on a bench.  As you watch the cascades of crystal beads streaming from between stone wreathes and sculpted longing you might say,

“I can’t cry yet.”

You may regret not having published books with the great poet and letting him have his own way with the stage play you wrote as a canto of his lines.  But you didn’t finish it. Now, this is finishing it.

“When the question is asked: ‘Is there death, after life?'”

küçük İskender, “Necromantic”

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Robin Moger Translates “The Princess Waits: A Verse Play by Salah Abdessabour”

Abdel-Hadi El-Gazzar, The Lady Rider, early 1950s. Source: christies.com

We do not see the hut when the lights first come up, and then we see it. Its inhabitants are not interested in us, perhaps because their problems do not concern us. These women spend their days waiting for a man, and they know that one day he will come. Lights shine upstage from the front of the stage, illuminating a door in the back wall. Neither fully open nor quite shut, it swings gently on its hinges, creaking intermittently, as though the fitful wind outside the hut is knocking to make its presence known within. Then the light sweeps downstage and to the right: we see a flight of stairs rising to the princess’s room, mirrored by a flight on the left leading down to their larder. Centre stage is an old-fashioned, rectangular dining table—or rather, it is simply old: it has no identifiable fashion. Around this table there are four chairs, the back of one slightly higher than the rest. The chairs are not neatly arranged but are scattered about as though hastily vacated. Between them wend the backs of two women dressed in black, cleaning the shabby furnishings and complaining.

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Youssef Rakha: Nawwah

Rakha, Masr Station, 2007

Youssef Rakha, Masr Station, 2007

And verily We had empowered them with that wherewith We have not empowered you, and had assigned them ears and eyes and hearts—Quran, xlvi, 26

My instructions are to deliver the corpse to Nastassja Kinsky. We are to meet at nine tomorrow morning in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel, just off the seashore in downtown Alexandria. The corpse is a lightweight microelectronic bolt that looks like a miniature coffin; Nastassja Kinsky is an agent of the Plant. If I revealed what the Plant is, I would die.

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Alienation: A New Chapbook by Mahmoud Almunirawi

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 2.16.35 AM

Click the image to access the PDF

Sometimes I think about praying

Maybe in congregation with other Muslims

Afterwards, I would call my mum and tell her:

People liked my voice when I recited the Qur’an

This happens again and again

But I haven’t done it a single time since I left home

I did not even call and ask her how she is…

Mahmoud Almunirawi defines this PDF as an album of overexposed images of architecture and poems “written during my 5 years in Sweden. Together,” he writes, “they form an abstract biography of life events.” тнє ѕυℓтαη’ѕ ѕєαℓ, which posted some of these poems in the original Arabic, was not involved in editing the English text, which was translated from Arabic by Slimen Zougari.

Noor Naga: No One Walks Woman in Alexandria

Anti-harassment stencil graffiti by Keizer. The legend reads “Check yourself before we check you”. Source: tavaana.org

The men of this city make animal

sounds as if to say

I got a slaughter with your neck

      on it now how

you gonna walk with your psst-psst hidden

  all your psst-psst hiding

      from me

           and my tick-tick pointing

pants how now you gonna walk two-legged

with my panting your

          stiff sniffable neck and my smick-smack with my

bone back watching—

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Brad Fox Does the Holy Quran

Detail from Umayyad Quran, before AD 725. Source: nybooks.com

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a train compartment from Casablanca to Marrakech with a Moroccan transport engineer, a Dutch-Italian couple, and a professor of Islamic culture back from Saudi Arabia for his summer holiday. The professor was talkative, repeatedly offering to buy everyone coffee and sandwiches. In a combination of fusha and a bit of English he went on about how people needed to know that Islam is not al-Qaeda and Da’esh, but love and friendship. At one point he asked us if anyone objected to him reciting a bit of the Qur’an. No one did, so he closed his eyes, pressed his fingertips together, and began reciting, quietly, beautifully. Afterward he asked the Dutch-Italian couple if they could feel the beauty of the language. Then, in the same voice and incantatory style, he said (in fushaI am going to a new city. I will arrive and look for a restaurant and a place to sleep.  He turned to them and asked if that felt different, but they couldn’t understand the question, and no one translated it, so we never got an answer. 

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The Unnamable Remains: Yasmine Seale translates Qasmuna bint Ismail

The Blood Moon from a 19th-century Thai manuscript, MS15760 at the British Library. Source: blogs.bl.uk

It is said that Qasmuna’s father, Ismail, enjoyed improvising verse with her. One day he said: ‘Finish this poem’.

I had a friend whose rare delight,

Though it rewarded care with spite,

Itself exonerated.

Qasmuna thought for a moment and replied:

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They Killed for Love: Michael Lesslie in Conversation with Maan Abu Taleb

José Luis Cuevas, Macbeth, 1987. Source: 1stdibs.com

One of my favourite insults to the person of Macbeth comes towards the end of the play, when the aggrieved Macduff calls out to him: “Turn, hellhound, turn!” It is a testament to Shakespeare’s prowess that even after we’ve witnessed all the atrocities committed by Macbeth, the line jars. “He’s not a hellhound!” one feels like shouting back. The insult agitates us. By then we had already tried to alienate ourselves from Macbeth and his deeds, but we’re too intimate with the depths of his anguish to do so, an anguish not mysterious and beyond our grasp, like Hamlet’s. Macbeth is well within our understanding, his dilemma is laid bare for us to ponder and weigh.

The suggestion that in reading Macbeth there are things to be learnt about Bashar al Assad, Saddam Hussein, or al Qathafi, is often laughed to scorn whenever I dare mention it in polite company. It is generally assumed that the characters of these men do not rise to the complexity and elevation of a Shakespearean villain, as if villainy excludes finesse. I am told they are mere butchers, with no depth of feeling or capacity for insight. Yet it is exactly that, insight, that I feel the likes of Saddam have, and which allows them to reign in terror for such elongated periods. One can hate Saddam and everything he stood for, but can we in good faith dismiss him as a brute, or deny his sophisticated methods of intimidation? A viewing of the Al Khold Hall footage – where Saddam solidified his grip on power by effectively staging a play, one where murder was unseen, like Macbeth, but real – demonstrates Saddam’s credentials as a connoisseur of terror. His methods of breaking the wills of men require nothing less than a terrible talent.

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𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 Dark Realms

“Freud sees the collision between psychoanalysis and our penal institutions: ‘It is not psychology that deserves to be laughed at, but the procedure of judicial inquiry.’ Reik, in a moment of apocalyptic optimism, declares that ‘The enormous importance attached by criminal justice to the deed as such derives from a cultural phase which is approaching its end.’ A social order based on the reality principle, a social order which draws the distinction between the wish and the deed, between the criminal and the righteous, is still the kingdom of darkness. It is only as long as a distinction is made between real and imaginary murders that real murders are worth committing: as long as the universal guilt is denied, there is a need to resort to individual crime, as a form of confession, and as a request for punishment. The strength of sin is the law.”

— from Love’s Body by Norman O. Brown

1966

Ulayya bint al-Mahdi’s Epigram by Yasmine Seale

Gustav_Klimt_046

Gustav Klimt,  Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907. Source: Wikipedia

To love two people is to have it 

coming: body nailed to beams,

dismemberment.

But loving one is like observing

religion.

I held out until fever 

broke me. 

How long can grass

brave fire?

If I did not have hope

that my heart’s master’s

heart might bend to mine, 

I would be stranded, no

closer to gate than home.

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55: Yasmine, Robin, Mohieddin

Poem 55 from a correspondence in translations of Ibn Arabi’s Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, between Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger. The first two translations are made independently and each subsequent rendering written after the other’s previous version has been sent and seen.

Khusraw discovers Shirin bathing in a pool from a 16th-century Khamsa by Nizami. Source: Wikipedia


screenshot-2


Y(i)

 

Distance, and desire ruins me. To meet

is no relief. Come or go, desire hardly cares.

 

Meeting him, unreckoned

things happen. In place of healing,

another ache of longing.

 

Because to meet him is to see

a person whose beauty grows

ever more abundant, proud.

 

All I can do is match my love’s ascent

To his loveliness on its measured scale.

 

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Ahmed Almunirawi’s Tunisian Portraits

It can happen that I am observed without knowing it, and again I cannot speak of this experience, since I have determined to be guided by the consciousness of my feelings. But very often (too often, to my taste) I have been photographed and knew it. Now, once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in the process of ‘posing,’ I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image. This transformation is an active one: I feel that the Photograph creates my body or mortifies it, according to its caprice…

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Hilary Plum: Lions

Saul Leiter, Barbara, 1951. Source: designobserver.com

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The long fact of the turned face is named faith.

Through the tall windows opposing the tapestries

that depict the gaze of the lion, low hills with dark cows

remain far. A pheasant plump in the dirt, a voice saying you,

and modern angles guide us into the room where we were

never again, as in the absence of any machine a man

watches the ball propelled down the lane toward him

then bends, pins in hand. I hear his regular breath.

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Valentine’s Gift: Nizar Qabbani by Yasmine Seale

The Jasmine Necklace

The Jasmine Necklace on pink paper in Nizar Qabbani’s neat hand. Courtesy of Yasmine Seale | قصيدة “طوق الياسمين” على ورق زهري بخط يد نزار قباني. مع الشكر للمترجمة

“Thank you for the jasmine necklace,”

you laughed, and I thought you knew

what it meant, this man’s gift of a garland

of jasmine. I thought you had understood.

.

You sat in a corner, brushing your hair,

drawing drops from a bottle of scent,

on your lips a tune, heartsick, French,

its complaint, like mine, pathetic.

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Robin Moger: From Ibn Arabi’s Turjuman al Ashwaq

I wish I knew

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Claudia Gerhard. Source: strkng.com

I wish I knew they knew what heart

they held. That my heart knew

what pass they tread. You wonder

Are they safe?

Or perished?

.

The enamoured are

in love adrift

ensnared.

 

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This is Robin Moger’s version of the first poem in Turjuman al Ashwaq

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