Poetry Craze

Don’t get me wrong…I’m still all about the fiction (nonfiction as well!), but lately, I’ve really been getting into poetry. Back in the US I didn’t read much of it, but now that I have more time on my hands, I have seriously been enjoying it. My favourite right now is W.S. Merwin, with gems like…

The Defeated
Beyond surprise, my ribs start up from the ground.
After I had sunk, the waters went down.
The horizon I was making for runs through my eyes.
It has woven its simple nest among my bones.

Noah’s Raven
Why should I have returned?
My knowledge would not fit into theirs.
I found untouched the desert of the unknown,
Big enough for my feet. It is my home.
It is always beyond them. The future
Splits the present with the echo of my voice.
Hoarse with fulfillment, I never made promises.

But I’ve been expanding beyond English writers and have been reading a lot of translated poetry as well. My current obsession is Two Lines: World Writing in Translation, a series I’ve mentioned in the past. They translate poetry/prose from around the world and publish both the original work and the English side by side. Lately, I’ve had a strong desire to learn Arabic so that I could read the originals of some of my favourite poems. Like…

She and He
Written by Hala al-Shrouf and translated by Wafa’a Abdulaali & Marilyn Hacker

Gets ready for a pleasant morning
with strong coffee.
She recalls last night’s dream, becomes embarrassed:
and if he were here close to me?
She arranges her days in a closet
chooses a new day
away from time and naming.
In the future there will be many of them,
these days far from words.

searches in his own closet for a name
that will fit everything that passes him
and everything that may not.
He wants to be brief in speech
in nostalgia
in beauty
in complaints
So that nothing controls him but memories
orphaned names of his desires.

comes back to herself in the evening
with a branch of jasmine
and some fatigue…
She brightens her night with a multicolored nightgown
cheats her loneliness with worries
abandons a bed meant for love
to drowse between wishes and insomnia

wants his night to drain away quickly
to dawn
so he snuffs out all the candles
to let them see their darkness on the horizon
goes quickly to his narrow bed
following a seductive dream he is weaving from patches…
takes his pillow in his arms
weary of his obsession from the past.


She Talks About Their Field
Written by Ibrahim Nasrallah and translated by Rasheeda Plenty

The fig and the olive
and the trellis evergreen cypress,
the sage in the shelter of oranges
and the scent of lemon,
the fragrance of jasmine in the night,
the green almond,
of the jujube pomegranate
the apricot and Indian fig,
the aching willow on the heights,
the white poplar and the sweet basil
…your soul
and the body.
Look there. Everything is here in the field of our exile
like in our first earth
and time did not turn us
to feel for half a minute
that exile is like home.

I’ve also been frequenting sites like Words Without Borders and InTranslation…because the books of poetry that I have only last so long! And of course, the obvious effect that all of this has had on me is that I’ve started writing my own poetry again. Nothing like what I pasted above, but it’s been an enjoyable way to spend my time. Makes me wonder if I’ll get back into publishing when this is all said and done. The world of print media may be a dying art, but it’s the one place that’s always felt like home.

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