Ulayya bint al-Mahdi’s Epigram by Yasmine Seale

Gustav Klimt, Expectation, 1905. Source: gustav-klimt.com

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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ست قصائد لسُكَينة حبيب الله

From the Aperture Foundation’s Paul Strand Book by Joel Meyerowitz. Source: studiobaer.com

 

عــشـ..شـ.. ــشـجرة
بدوري حملتُ قَشّاً
قشّاً كثيراً
ومضيتُ أبحثُ عن شجرة أبني عليها عُشِّي
إلا أني لم أجد.
وهكذا
بالقشِّ الذي التقطتُ
حشوتُ صدري
اخترتُ حقلا،
ووقفتُ منتصبةً عليها.

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Robin Moger Does Sukaina Habiballah

From the Aperture Foundation’s Paul Strand Book by Joel Meyerowitz. Source: studiobaer.com

nes t ree

in turn I bore straw

much straw and went

in search of a tree to make

my nest but a tree I did not find 

and with the straw I’d gleaned I packed

my chest I picked a field and I stood upright there 

 

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Belal Hosni: Everyday Horses/Gregory Djanikian

Alexandria, 1953

 

You could think of sunlight

Glancing off the minarets,

You could think of guavas and figs

And the whole marketplace filled

With the sumptuous din of haggling,

But you could not think of Alexandria

Without the sea, or the sea,

Turquoise and shimmering, without

The white city rising before it.

 

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Matthew Chovanec: On Its Own Fucked-up Terrain

Matthew Chovanec reviews Yasser Abdel Hafez’s The Book of Safety, for which Robin Moger won the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize in 2017

Rohan Daniel Eason (copyright One Peace Books), from a children’s illustrated Kafka. Source: wired.com

Arabic novels are so frequently described as Kafkaesque or Orwellian that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the two authors were themselves Arab. It is a small wonder that noone has yet tried to uncover their secret Arab origins by etymologizing their names (قفقاء and الروال) in the way that the Turks have for Shakespeare. It is true that both of their names have become literary shorthand for a type of writing dealing with dystopia, oppressive bureaucracies, and the horrors of totalitarian society. It is also true that Arab societies have continued unabated to live through dystopias, oppressive bureaucracies, and the horrors of totalitarian society. But the label flattens out what is particular and new about so much excellent Arabic writing, and suggests that everything you need to know about the daily experience of living in a dysfunctional and cruel system can be captured by the term  “nightmarish”.

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مقادير خورخي لويس بورخيس ترجمة هانئ حلمي

Ferdinando Scianna, Jorge Luis Borges, Palermo, Sicily, 1984. Source: nybooks.com

في الشوارع التي تتلاشى في عتمة الغروب
هناك شارع (لا أدري أيها) لابد وأنني عبرته للمرة الأخيرة،
جاهلاً أن هذا زماني الأخير هناك.
غافلاً غير مبالٍ، أطيع جل جلاله،
من يكتب مقادير النهايات الخفية العصية
على كل الظلال والأحلام والصور،
التي تنسج الحياة وتحل خيوطها كرة أخرى.
من ذا الذي يدلنا، إن كانت الأشياء رهينة الأقدار والأوقات،
ومرات أخيرات، وانقطاعات الزمان، وسديم النسيان،
عمن سيرحل عن ذاك المنزل ونلوح له بالوداع؟
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استمر في القراءة

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


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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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