Finding English words to match Arabic words is a very difficult task, but when you add the factor of poetry, with it’s thought, feeling and nuance, the mental athleticism becomes near Olympian. Khaled Mattawa – my favorite Arabic-to-English translator – has brought the poems of Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser into the first English collection of his work. Shepherd of Solitude: Selected Poems is a recent book from Banipal Press, 2009. I like this book, and say, “Good Work, Khaled!
Alfred Corn comments: “…Nasser has developed an unusually wide expressive range… Khaled Mattawa’s finely calibrated translations open a door onto poetry that is a pleasure to read…” Here is a taste:
A Rose of Black Lace
is a train pulled by tired bulls,
and the woman spreads her whiteness on the stranger.
White this black-hearted night,
costly and tall
wearing a pair of black pumps,
white, and blond
guarded by sleepless grass….
with a birthmark,
the white of sapphire,
the white of her turn…
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You finally belong to another generation when you read the works of younger poets and grieve about the poetry,/ voices of offspring singers remind you of adamant cicadas in sleepless nights,/ you can count with your fingers the number of people walking the streets/ that are dressed like you and have the same haircut/ looking long and hard before they cross the street. Amjad Nasser
from the website “Lettre Ulysses Award” http://www.lettre-ulysses-award.org/jury04/bio_nasser.html