by Shadab Zeest Hashmi
At death you measure
no more than our arms
When we rise
to blow a prayer into your charred lung
we find resplendent
milling about — lapidary
punctuations of our time
(eleven months in all)
Horror turned honey
as buds of new fruit
translations by M. Shahid Alam
My absence was God:
His absence grows in me.
If I was not in play, how
Would that go for me?
I had nothing to lose
When she cut off my head.
It sat not on my torso: it lay
Dead upon my knee.
Dead all these years, Ghalib
Comes back to me. We
Talked of present misery:
He always, what might be.
by M. Shahid Alam
A night reading Rumi fills ancient wineglasses.
By day speed & freeway suck God out of me.
I have stayed up all night thinking of you.
Wall Street & City leech love out of me.
Who is my brother if the world is a village?
Jet and internet pluck my roots out of me.
If earth goes toxic, let’s move out to Mars.
This devil optimism takes the heart out of me.
When blue sky and sun wrap me in their arms,
Shähid, this friendship takes the dread out of me.
M. Shahid Alam teaches economics at Northeastern University in Boston. He is the author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2010). His poems and Ghalib translations have appeared in Kenyon Review(forthcoming), Critical Muslim (forthcoming), Clapboard House, Prairie Schooner, Chicago Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Paintbrush, Black Bear Review, West Coast Review, Marlboro Review, Journal of South Asian Literature, Kimera, Sufi, Swan, Chowk, Blanket and Pulse.
Following is a translation by Michael Keefer and Nica Mintz of Günter Grass’s “Was gesagt werden muss”, which we posted earlier. It is the best by far; it manages to preserve the poetic intent without sacrificing precision.
(UPDATE: Financial Times, German edition, is carrying out a poll to assess people’s view of Grass’s poem. We would encourage readers to take the time to vote. )
What Must be Said
By Günter Grass
Why have I kept silent, silent for too long
over what is openly played out
in war games at the end of which we
the survivors are at best footnotes.
It’s that claim of a right to first strike
against those who under a loudmouth’s thumb
are pushed into organized cheering—
a strike to snuff out the Iranian people
on suspicion that under his influence
an atom bomb’s being built.
But why do I forbid myself
to name that other land in which
for years—although kept secret—
a usable nuclear capability has grown
beyond all control, because
no scrutiny is allowed.
by Najeeb Mubarki
(This article first appeared in The Economic Times, May 19, 2007, while the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, was still alive. Darwish was born exactly seventy-one years ago in the Western Galilee village of al-Birwa on March 13, 1941.)
In his 2004 film Notre Musique [Our Music], a journalese-philosophical meditation on war and reconciliation, Jean-Luc Godard gave pride of place to Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. In the film, repeating what he had once told an Israeli journalist, Darwish inverts the relationship with the ‘other’: “Do you know why we Palestinians are famous? Because you are our enemy. The interest is in you, not in me…” By saying that he was important because Israel is important Darwish wasn’t just referring to the erasure of identity and history the Palestinians have had to struggle against, but perhaps more to the continuum of suffering, of that erasure, that has been passed down, as it were, to the Palestinians by the Jews. Not that Darwish now needs to affirm his self as an inversion of his ‘enemy’, or that he needed a Godard to affirm his being. In fact, it is quite the other way round, he was in the film because one cannot make a film on reconciliation without him, and his is a poetry of love, loss, of memory and exile that is more a challenge to the occupier than slogans and bombs ever can be.
by Manash Bhattacharjee
World, take a backseat.
Do not disturb.
I am reading Sebald.
Trees with eyes flit by
My blind face.
I hurriedly drink
by Huma Dar
I am reminded of, yet once again,
if I ever forgot,
occupied with, all over again,
a crazy, intense
conversation with my students,
some weeks ago.
As Ibn ‘Arabi’s Moses,
we heard out of Time:
“take off thy shoes” (20:12).
Spurred by our reading
of Tayeb Salih’s tumultuous Season
of Migration to the North,
“a moment of ecstasy is worth the whole of life,”
Frantz Fanon’s Black tender Skin,
and the Whiteness
of colonial Masks that pierce us,
whirling with, in, and around us,
and the imprisonment
of four-hundred at San Quentin
— that notorious jail
from Hollywood’s dungeons.
by Manash BhattacharjeeI learnt from your poems how To wait upon death And how waiting is a game as Treacherous as death. I learnt from you how the root Of waiting is grasped in despair And that there is no despair More deceitful than hope. Continue reading “In Memory of Mahmoud Darwish”
The great Polish poet and Nobel laureate is no more. Katha Pollit of The Nation pays tribute.
Szymborska’s poems are mostly short, and her output was not voluminous—only around 400 published poems. And yet, she is one of the few contemporary poets you can call beloved and not have it be a condescension or an insult. In The New York Review of Books Charles Simic called her poems “poetry’s equivalent of expository writing,” which captures their accessibility, their logical clarity and their interest in facts (especially odd ones), stories, things and people, but doesn’t convey their charm or vitality. Expository writing is, after all, a required class for college freshmen—the opposite of fun, dazzle, originality, pathos. For me, Szymborska’s signature quality is the way she puts tragedy and comedy, the unique and the banal, the big and the little, the remembering and the forgetting, right next to each other and shows us that this is what life is:
After every war
someone has to tidy up.
Things won’t pick
themselves up, after all.
Someone has to shove
the rubble to the roadsides
so the carts loaded with corpses
can get by.
—from “The End and the Beginning”